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RELICS OF POPULAR ANTIQUITIES, &c. 






ESTABLISHED IN 



THE YEAR MDCCCLXXVIII. 




PUBLICATIONS 

OP 

THE FOLK-LORE SOCIETY. 




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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

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PRESIDENT. 
THE RIGHT HON. THE EARL OF VERULAM, F.R.G.S. 



JAMES BRITTEN, F.L.S. 
HENRY C. COOTE, F.S.A. 
SIR W. R. DRAKE, F.S.A. 
G. LAURENCE GOMME. 
HENRY HILL, F.S.A. 
A. LANG, M.A. 



COUNCIL. 

PROFESSOR MAX MULLER,M.A. 
F. OUVRY, F.S.A. 
W. R. S. RALSTON, M.A. 
EDWARD SOLLY, F.R.S. F.S.A. 
WILLIAM J. THOMS, F.S.A. 
EDWARD B. TYLOR, LL.D. 



DIRECTOR.— WILLIAM J. THOMS, F.S.A. 

TREASURER.— SIR WILLIAM R. DRAKE, F.S.A. 

HONORARY SECRETARY.— G. LAURENCE GOMME, Castelnau, Barnes, S.W. 

AUDITORS.— E. HAILSTONE, ESQ. F.S.A. 
JOHN TOLHURST, ESQ. 

BANKERS.— UNION BANK OF LONDON, CHARING CROSS BRANCH. 



LIST OF MEMBERS. 



Mrs. Adams, Manor House, Staines. 

George H. Adshead, Esq., 9, Strawberry Terrace, Pendleton. 

Major- General Stewart Allan, Richmond. 

William Andrews, Esq., 10, Colonial Street, Hull. 

George L. Apperson, Esq., The Common, Wimbledon. 

Mrs. Arnott, Milne Lodge, Sutton, Surrey. 

William E. A. Axon, Esq., Bank Cottage, Barton-on-Irwell. 

James Backhouse, Esq., West Bank, York. 

Jonathan E. Backhouse, Esq., Bank, Darlington. 

James Bain, Esq., 1, Haymarket, S.W. 

Alexander Band, Esq., 251, Great Western Road, Glasgow. 

J. Davies Barnett, Esq.. 28, Victoria Street, Montreal, Canada. 



J. Bawden, Esq., Kingstou, Canada. 

Charles E. Baylcy, Esq., West Bromwich. 

The Earl Beauchamp. 

Miss Bell, Borovere, Alton, Hants. 

Isaac Binns, Esq., F.R.Hist.S., Batley, Yorkshire. 

William George Black, Esq., 1, Alfred Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow. 

J. F. Boaler, Esq., Woodrhydding, Ilkey-in-Wharfdale, Yorkshire. 

II. Courthope Bowen, Esq., 49, Gloucester Place, Portman Square, W. 

Mrs. Woodhouse Braine, 56, Maddox Street, W. 

James Britten, Esq., F.L.S., British Museum, W.C. 

Percy W. Britton, Esq., 13, Park Square, Leeds. 

William E. Brough, Esq., Leek, Staffordshire. 

The Lord Brougham and Vaux. 

Henry Thomas Brown, Esq., Chester. 

J. H. Burton, Esq., 5, Trafalgar Square, Ashton-under-Lyne. 

The Right Rev. Bishop Callaway, Caffraria, South Africa. 

J. M. Campbell, Esq., Kelvin Grove, Glasgow. 

Henry Campkin, Esq., F.S.A., Reform Club. 

Rev. J. L. Carrick, Spring Hill, Southampton. 

Rev. J. W. Cartmell, Christ's College, Cambridge. 

William Chappell, Esq , F.S.A., Strafford Lodge, Oatlands Park, Weybridge. 

H. B. Churchill, Esq., Weiland House, Reigate. 

Rev. George Christian, Redgatc, Uppingham. 

Hyde Clarke, Esq., D.C.L., 32, St. George's Square, S.W. 

Edward Clodd, Esq., Rosemount, Tufnell Park, N. 

John Collett, Esq., 12, Fopstone Road, Kensington, W. 

J. Payne Collier, Esq., F.S.A., Riverside, Maidenhead. 

Moncure D. Conway, Esq., Hamlet House, Hammersmith. 

Henry C. Cootc, Esq., F.S.A., Walwyn House, Richmond Road, West Brompton. 

F. W. Cosens, Esq., F.S.A., 27, Queen's Gate, Kensington. 

Rev. Joseph Crompton, Bracondale, near Norwich. 

Hugh Diamond, Esq., M.D., Twickenham House, Twickenham. 

James 11. Dormer Esq., 48, Devonshire Street, Queen's Square, W.C. 

Sir William R. Drake, F.S.A., The Lodge, Oatlands, Weybridge. 

J. Dalrymplc Duncan, Esq., 22o, West George Street, Glasgow. 

John M. Dunn, Esq., F.R.G.S., 30, Claverton Street, St. George's Square, S.W. 

Rev. T. F. Thiselton Dyer, Penzance, Cornwall. 

Charles W. Empson, Esq., I, Southwood Terrace, Highgatc, N. 

John Brans, Esq., LL.D. F.R.S. V.P.S.A. Nash Mills, Heme] Hempetead, Herts. 

John Fenton, Esq., Elm Tree House, Hampetead. 

David Fitzgerald, Esq., Porten Road, Hammersmith. 

. F. G. Flcay, Avondalc Square. S.W. 
tagnstna W. Franks Esq., M.A., F.R.S., Dir. 8 A. 




Edwin Freshficld, Esq., 5, Bank Buildings, E.C 

William Garnott, Esq., Qucrnmorc Park, Lancaster. 

The Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., Harley Street, W. 

F. W. Goddard, Esq., Seymour Lodge, St. James's Road, Brixton. 
Frederick J. Gomme, Esq., Castelnau, Barnes, S.W. 

G. Laurence Gomme, Esq. (Secretary), Castelnau, Barnes, S.W. 
Rev. Walter Gregor, Pitsligo, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. 

Rev. A. B. Grosart, LL.D. F.S.A., Park View, Blackburn, Lancashire. 

Arthur Gunn, Esq., Hampstead. 

Miss Gunning, 2, Parkside, Cambridge. 

Mrs. Gutch, Holgate Lodge, York. 

Robert Guy, Esq., 4, Elgin Villas, Shawlands, Glasgow. 

Edward Hailstone, Esq., F.S.A., Walton Hall, Wakefield. 

James Hardy, Esq., Oldcambus, Cockburnspath. 

H. S. Harris, Esq., 26, Porchester Square, W. 

Mrs. Harrison, Shirley House, The Avenue, Beckenham, Kent. 

Fred J. Harte, Esq., 3, Clifton Square, Lytham, Lancashire. 

E. Sidney Hartland, Esq., 8, Brunswick Place, Swansea. 

William Henderson, Esq., Ashford Court, near Ludlow, Shropshire. 

Henry Hill, Esq., F.S.A., 2, Curzon Street, Mayfair. 

Robert Holland, Esq., Norton Hill, Runcorn, Cheshire 

J. Devenish Hoppus, Esq., Church Cottage, Woburn Sands. 

Rev. A. Hume, D.C.L., All Saints Vicarage, Liverpool. 

Rev. E. F. Drummond Hutton, D.D., Glasgow. 

Miss Jelley, 6, Limetrees Villas, Woodside, South Norwood. 

Mrs. Jobling, 97, Rathgar Road, Dublin. 

Rev. W. Rodwell Jones, Hanley, Staffordshire. 

Joseph Jones, Esq., Abberley Hall, Stourport. 

G. H. Kinahan, Esq., Ovoca, Ireland. 

Alfred Kingston, Esq., Record Office, Fetter Lane. 

John Kirsop, Esq., 6, Queen's Crescent, Glasgow. 

C. J. Knight, Esq., F.S.A., York Terrace, Regent's Park. 

Rev. W. S. Lach-Szyrma, M.A., St. Peter's Vicarage, Penzance. 

Alexander Laing, Esq., LL.D., Newburgh-on-Tay, Scotland. 

A. Lang, Esq., M.A., 1, Marloes Road, Kensington, S.W. 

Henry C. Lea, Esq., 706, Sansom Street, Philadelphia. 

John Lockett, Esq., Market Drayton. 

J. Long, Esq., 19, Adam Street, W.C. 

Sir John Lubbock, Bart., F.R.S., High Elms, Beckenham, Kent. 

Edgar MacCulloch, Esq., F.S.A., Guernsey. 

J. W. MacCarthy, Esq., British Legation, Yedo, Japan. 

John Machair, Esq., Edinburgh. 

Alex. Mackay, Esq., Trowbridge, Wilts. 



VI 

Rev. Clement W. Mackey, Alveley Vicarage, Bridgnorth. 

Surgeon-Genera} Mackinnon, Aldershot. 

William MacLennan, Esq., 317, Dmmmond Street, Montreal, Canada. 

Sir Henry Sumner Maine, K.C.S.I., LL.D., F.R.S., 27, Cornwall Gardens. 

Mrs. M. E. Mann, Shropham, Thetford, Norfolk. 

Ch. Elkin Matbews, Esq., 7, Hamilton Road, Highbury Park, N. 

II. B. Michelsen, Esq., F.R.Hist.S., 9, James Street, Westbourne Terrace. 

•T. Middleton, Esq., Westholme, Cheltenham. 

Mitchell Library, Glasgow. 

James Earl Morton, Esq., F.R.C.S., Tarvin, near Chester. 

Rev. A. B. Morris, Keighle^, Yorks. 

Prof. Max Muller, M.A., Norham Gardens, Oxford. 

James Napier, Esq., Maryfield, Bothwell. 

The Lady Caroline Nevill. 

Robert Cradock Nichols, Esq., F.S.A., 5, Sussex Place, Hyde Park. 

James Nicholson, Esq. Murton, Berwick-upon-Tweed. 

" Notes and Queries," The Proprietor of. 

Alfred Nutt, Esq., Rosendale Hall, Dulwich. 

Frederic Onvry, Esq., F.S.A., 12, Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square. 

Cornelius Paine, Esq., 9, Lewes Crescent, Kemp Town, Brighton. 

George L. I. Palmer, Esq., Trowbridge, Wilts. 

Rev. Chancellor W. D. Parish, The Vicarage, Selmeston, Lewes. 

W. Payne, Esq., Hatchlands, Cuckfield, Sussex. 

Edward Peacock, Esq., F.S.A., Bottesford Manor, Brigg, Lancashire. 

William Pengelly, Esq., F.R.S., F.G.S., Lamorna, Torquay. 

Thurstan C. Peter, Esq., Trengweath, Redruth, Cornwall. 

C. Pfoundes, Esq., Tokio, Japan. 

John South Phillips, M.A., Barton Lodge, Bury St. Edmund's. 

Mrs. W. F. Phillpotts, 3, Gloucester Terrace, Campden Hill, W. 

William Duncombe Pink, Esq., F.R.Hist.S., Leigh, Lancashire. 

Mrs. Pollard, 6, Belsize Crescent, N.W. 

Hon. Gerald Ponsonby, 54, Green Street, Grosvenor Square, W. 

B'Arcy Power, Esq., 13, Longwall Street, Oxford. 

The Earl Powis. 

Mrs. Priestley, 17, Hertford Street, Mayfair, W. 

W. R. S. Ralston, Esq., M.A., 8, Alfred Place, Bedford Square. 

Isaac J. Reeve, Esq., Newhaven, Sussex. 

W. Napier Reeve, Esq., F.S.A., Leicester. 

H. J. Roper, Esq., r>, Lausanne Road, Peckham. 

Josiah Rose. Esq., F.R. Hist. S., Leigh, Lancashire. 

Rev. G. Stringer Rowe, Harrogate. 

George Augustus Snln, Esq. 

Thomas Satchcll, Esq., Downshire Hill House, Hampstead. 






VI 1 

J. Ebenezer Sannders, Esq., F.S.A., F.L.S., 9, Finsbury Circus, E.C. 

Rev. A. H. Sayce, Queen's College, Oxford. 

George Scharf, Esq., F.S.A., National Portrait Gallery, South Kensington. 

Frederick Sherlock, Esq., 1, Lombard Street, Belfast. 

Mrs. Singleton, Great Girendale, Pocklington. 

A. Russell Smith, Esq., 36, Soho Square. 

Charles C. Smith, Esq., Bradley, near Kildwick, Yorkshire. 

George Smith, Esq., F.S.A., 62, Hamilton Terrace, St. John's Wood, N.W. 

Edward Solly, Esq., F.R.S., F.S.A., Sutton, Surrey. 

William S. Sonnenschein, Esq., 15, Paternoster Square, E.C. 

Professor Dr. George Stephens, F.S.A., Copenhagen. 

C. H. Stephenson, Esq., Lilian Road, Castelnau, Barnes, S.W. 

Dr. A. P. Stewart, 75, Grosvenor Street, W. 

Rev. Charles Swainson, The Rectory, Old Charlton. 

Hon. Wirt Sykes, Cardiff. 

The Count Takatsgu Inouye, University College, London. 

William J. Thorns, Esq. F.S.A., 40, St. George's Square, S.W. 

Samuel Timmins, Esq., F.S.A., Elvetham Lodge, Birmingham. 

John Tolhurst, Esq., Glenbrook, Beckenham, Kent. 

Miss Henrietta Townsend, South End House, Croydon. 

George M. Traherne, Esq., St. Hilary, Cowbridge, Glamorganshire. 

Dr. Edward B. Tylor, Linden, Wellington, Somersetshire. 

J. S. Udal, Esq., F.R.Hist.S., 4, Harcourt Buildings, Temple, E.C. 

Professor J. Veitch, LL.D., Glasgow University. 

Rev. Precentor Venables, The Precentory, Lincoln. 

The Earl of Verulam 

R. H. Wallace, Esq., Newton Hall, Kennoway, Fife, N.B. 

C. Staniland Wake, Esq., 74, Wright Street, Hull. 

Alfred White, Esq., F.S.A., F.L.S. 

Capt. E. A. White, F.S.A., Old Elvet, Durham. 

George White, Esq., St. Briavels, Epsom. 

William A. White, Esq., C.B., H.B.M.S., Consul- General, Belgrade. 

Hamilton Whiteford, Esq., 17, Courtenay Street, Plymouth. 

Rev. J. Whitmee, F.R.G.S., C.M.Z.S., 5, Dacre Park, Blackheath. 

Adin Williams, Esq., Kempsford, Fairford, Gloucestershire. 

Charles Williams, Esq., Moseley Lodge, near Birmingham. 

Councillor William Wilson, West Lodge, Pollockshields, Glasgow. 

Miss E. A. Winfield, North Circus Street, Nottingham. 

Miss G. M. Zornlin, 11, Clifton Terrace, Winchester. 



&f)e jpolfesILore Society, 



RULES. 

I. " Tlie Folk-Lore Society " has for its object the preservation 
and publication of Popular Traditions, Legendary Ballads, Local 
Proverbial Sayings, Superstitions and Old Customs (British and 
foreign), and all subjects relating to them. 

II. The Society shall consist of Members being subscribers to 
its funds of One Guinea annually, payable in advance on the 1st 
of January in each year. 

III. A Member of the Society may at any time compound 
for future annual subscriptions by payment of Ten Guineas over 
and above the subscription for the current year. 

IV. An Annual General Meeting of the Society shall be held 
in London . at such time and place as the Council from time to 
time appoint. No Member whose subscription is in arrear shall 
be entitled to vote or take part in the proceedings of the Meeting. 

V. The affairs of the Society, including the admission of 
Members, shall be conducted by a President and a Council of 
twelve Members, who shall from among themselves elect a 
Director, Treasurer, and Secretary. The Council shall have 
power to fill up occasional vacancies in their number. 

VI. At each Annual General Meeting all the Members of the 
Council shall retire from office, but shall be eligible for re- 
election. 

VII. Tho accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the 
Society shall be audited annually by two Auditors, to be elected 
:it the General Meeting. 



IX 



VIII. Any Member who shall be one year in arrear of his 
subscription shall cease to bo a Member of the Society. 

IX. Every Member (whose subscription shall not be in 
arrear) shall be entitled to a copy of each of the ordinary works 
published by the Society. 

X. No alteration shall be made in these Rules except at a 
Special General Meeting of the Society, and upon the requisition 
of at least five Members, nor then unless at least one month's 
previous notice of the change to be proposed shall have been 
given in writing to the Secretary. The alteration proposed shall 
be approved by at least three-fourths of the Members present 
at such Meeting. 






THE 

FOLK-LORE RECORD, 



PART I. 

CONTAINING 

PREFACE. 

SOME WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS LINGERING IN 
1868. By Mrs. Latham. 

MISCELLANEOUS :— 

NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. By W. R. S. Ralston, M.A. 

THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. By A. Lang, M.A. 

SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. By C. Pfoundes. 

A FOLK-TALE AND VARIOUS SUPERSTITIONS OF THE 

HIDATSA INDIANS. Communicated by Dr. E. B. Tylor. 
CHAUCER'S NIGHT-SPELL. By William J. Thoms, F.S.A. 
PLANT-LORE NOTES TO MRS. LATHAM'S WEST SUSSEX 

SUPERSTITIONS. By James Britten, F.L.S. 
YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS 
DIVINATION BY THE BLADE-BONE. By William J. Thoms, F.S.A. 
INDEX TO THE FOLK-LORE IN THE FIRST SERIES OF HARD- 

WICKE'S " SCIENCE-GOSSIP." By James Britten, F.L.S. 
SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. By Henry Charles Coote, F.S.A. 
WART AND WEN CURES. By James Hardy. 
FAIRIES AT ILKLEY WELLS. By Charles C. Smith. 



NOTES. 

QUERIES. 

NOTICES AND NEWS. 




THE PKEFACE. 



I have been invited to introduce this volume to the Mem- 
bers of the Folk- Lore Society. I have accepted the honour so 
kindly offered me with mingled feelings of satisfaction and 
i egret. 

I am naturally gratified at being permitted to take part in 
a movement calculated to advance a department of literary 
inquiry, which, ever since I read in the Quarterly Review, some 
fifty years ago, the admirable articles by the late Sir Francis 
Palgrave, on popular Literature, Superstitions and Customs, and 
similar matters, now commonly recognised under the generic 
name of Folk -Lore (originally suggested by an anonymous 
writer in The Afhenwum of 22nd August 1846), has ever had a 
fascination for me, which has led me to return to the subject — 
one of mes premieres amours, whenever the graver duties of a 
long official life gave me an opportunity of doing so. 

When in the early part of 1876 an accomplished writer in 
Notes and Queries suggested the formation of a Folk-Lore 
Society, I was, for reasons which it would be impertinent to 
enter upon here, unable to do more than wish the proposal 
God speed; and it was not until after a strong personal ap- 
peal to me on the part of the proposer, and a growing fear 
on my own part, from what I saw in the Correspondence on 
the subject, lest the idea should fall to the ground, that, 
though conscious that my age ought almost to forbid my 
doing so, I came forward and placed my thirty-four years' 
experience as Secretary of the Camden Society at the service 
of the Folk-Lore loving public. 

I hope that the present volume will be received by the 



XIV THE FllEFACE. 

Members for its interest and variety with that satisfaction 
which I believe it deserves, and also as a proof that the Folk- 
Lore Society is now safely established. These are the grounds of 
my gratification. 

My regret is that the pleasant duty of introducing such 
volume to the Society has not been performed by some of those 
more learned members of the Council whose papers constitute its 
chief claim to that approval which I do not hesitate to claim 
for it. 

In the Prospectus of the Society a hope was expressed that it 
would publish a translation of Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie. I 
am probably mainly responsible for that suggestion, inasmuch as 
the book has long been an especial favourite of mine, although I 
am well aware of what was recently urged against it, that it 
is as much, if not more, Scandinavian than Teutonic. But 
this is not in my mind an objection, as, be it what it may, 
it is essentially the great storehouse of illustrations of the 
popular superstitions of these islands. 

That intention is, however, abandoned; as a translation of the 
work, which is understood to be far advanced, will be published 
by Mr. Sonnenschein, a Member of the Society. This is to a 
certain extent an advantage, as it wili leave the funds, which 
would have been expended upon the Grimm, available for others 
of the many works of interest which the widening labours in the 
Society will be sure to call forth. In the course of the coming 
year the Council hope to place in the hands of the Members, in 
its entirety, a work of great importance, from its early and special 
reference to English Folk-Lore — a work hitherto only known to 
English students in a very fragmentary form. I refer to the 
interesting Lansdowne MS. No. 231, containing Aubrey's mate- 
rials (with some additions by Dr. White Kennctt, Bishop of 
Peterborough) for a work, the publication of which he had con- 
templated under the title of " Remains of Gentilisme and 
Judaisme" and in which it appears he had proposed to draw a 






THE PKEFACE. XV 



parallel between the superstitions of Greece and Rome and those 
of his own country; finding the records or rather traces of the 
former in the works of their Poets; and collecting his English 
stores from the communications of his friends. It is a MS. of 
which the late Sir Henry Ellis availed himself largely in his 
valuable edition of Brand's Popular Antiquities, and from which 
the present writer made some curious extracts in the volume 
of Anecdotes and Traditions published by the Camden Society 
in 1839. A transcript of the MS. in question is being made 
under the superintendence of Mr. James Britten, of the British 
Museum, who has kindly undertaken to see it through the press. 

In the face of Anthony Wood's spiteful character of Aubrey, 
11 as a shiftless person, roving and magotie-headed," English 
Literature owes .him much, as those who know his Natural 
History of Surrey and The Letters from the Bodleian will readily 
admit. His brother Wiltshire antiquary, John Britton, who 
published his Life, has done him justice, and perhaps on this 
subject I may be permitted to endorse Britton's views, as I once 
heard them admirably endorsed by that readiest of wits, 
Theodore Hook. 

It was formerly the custom, the disuse of which is to be re- 
gretted, for the Society of Antiquaries to dine together after the 
anniversary meeting on St. George's Day, which it will be re- 
membered is also the reputed birthday of Shakespeare, so that 
some allusion to the Great Poet was invariably brought before 
the Fellows. Some forty years ago, when there was a great 
controversy raging as to the manner in which Shakespeare spelt 
his own name, or whether he could spell it at all, some allusion 
having been made, I think by the President, Lord Aberdeen, to 
this controversy, old John Britton, who dearly loved to make a 
speech, delivered at some length his opinion on this important 
point. Even in that grave society there were always some few 
spirits who loved a joke, so, no sooner had Britton resumed his 
seat than there arose a cry, " Mr. Hook ! Mr. Hook ! Mr. Hook !" 



XVI THE PREFACE. 

with a view of getting a speech from him upon the subject. 
Their wish was gratified. They got it, and very short and 
effective it was. Hook (I was seated close to him) arose, and 
every noise was hushed, as with great gravity he said, " I am a 
true Britton !" The effect was electrical. 

And so with regard to the Biographer of Aubrey's eulogium 
on his Wiltshire predecessor, "I am a true Britton ! " and ven- 
ture to predict that Aubrey's Judaism and Gentilism will be 
heartily welcomed by every Member of the Folk-Lore Society. 

One word more. Since the Society was formed, our active 
and intelligent Secretary, Mr. Gomme, has "tapped" — (I thank 
thee, Horace Walpole, for teaching me that word) — has tapped 
a subject which is, I believe, new in this country. I allude to 
our English Field Names, which, as Mr. Gomme justly ob- 
serves in his public appeal " for lists of them," are " eminently 
of historical value, being so indicative of local legend." Those 
who remember the chapters on the u Anglo-Saxon Local Names " 
in Dr. Leo's Rectitudines Singidarum Personarum will, I doubt 
not, feel that I am justified in the hope that a thorough investi- 
gation of these Field Names will contribute much new illustration 
of the bygone mythology of England. 

William J. Thoms. 



SOME 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS 

LINGERING IN 1868. 



COLLECTED BY 

CHARLOTTE LATHAM, AT FITTLEWORTH. 






PREFACE. 



During the long desultory process of collecting the follow- 
ing instances of our existing superstitions, it has been my 
practice always to write down, at the very earliest opportunity, 
the scraps of homely conversation in which they were com- 
municated to me by the professed believer in them. I find 
that by referring to these notes I have each particular case 
brought back more vividly to my recollection, and am satisfied 
of its authenticity ; by preserving them, I shall perhaps enable 
others to form a truer judgment than they could otherwise 
arrive at of the degree of faith existing in the original narrator. 

C. L. 



Torquay, 1878. 



CONTENTS. 



Preface. 

Chapter I. 

PAGE 

Prognostics of Good and Evil .... 7 

Chapter II. 
Other Wonders that are implicitly believed, but without any Good or 
Evil Consequences being attached to them . . 15 

Chapter III. 
Ghosts, Goblins, Witches and Fairies . . . 19 

Chapter IV. 
Omens and Presages associated with Love and Marriage . 30 

Chapter V. 
Charms and Observances believed to be effectual for the Cure or the 
Avoidance of different Ailments ... 35 

Chapter VI. 
Prognostics of Death j Sick-room and Death-bed Superstitions 51 

Index. 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 




CHAPTER I. 

PROGNOSTICS OF GOOD AND EVIL. 

T is the hardest thing in the world to shake off super- 
stitious prejudices : they are sucked in, as it were, with 
our mother's milk ; and, growing up with us at a time 
when they take the fastest hold and make the most 
lasting impressions, become so interwoven into our very constitutions, 
that the strongest good sense is required to disengage ourselves from 
them. No wonder, therefore, that the lower people retain them their 
whole lives through, since their minds are not invigorated by a liberal 
education, and therefore not enabled to make any efforts adequate to 
the occasion. Such a preamble appears to be necessary before we 
enter on the superstitions of this district, lest we should be suspected 
of exaggeration in a recital of practices too gross for this enlightened 
age." 

These were the words of Gilbert White of Selborne,* written in 
1776 ; and, if such a preamble appeared necessary then, how much 
more needful may it be considered now, in speaking of the equally 
gross superstitions still lingering in a district not very far removed 
from Selborne. The rising generation are indeed gradually learning 
to despise this folk-lore of their fathers ; and in referring to it they 
will generally add some expression indicative of their attitude towards 
it, e.g., " not that I believe in charms, or in good or bad signs, but I 
have heard my mother say a crow's cawing three times as it flew over 
the house was a sign of death ;" or, " I know an old woman, who, it 
is said, can cure burns and scalds by saying a charm over them : but 

* The Natural History of Selborne, vol. i. p. 342, ed. 1813. 



8 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

I dare say it is all fancy ;" evidently wishing you to believe that in 
these times such things are only received by " the superstitious idle- 
headed eld." But in truth, though the folk of now-a-days may affect 
to laugh at the old lore, they have not risen above its influence. To 
expect them to make a frank confession of the fact, in " this en- 
lightened age," is to demand too much of their moral courage ; but 
the following record will prove that their condition has not been mis- 
represented, showing that in West Sussex alone there is a people 
whose life is leavened by the most startling superstitions, and whose 
most cherished worldly wisdom has been gained from " old wives' 
fables." 

Inhabitants of the weald and wold of Sussex still put their faith in 
a great variety of good and bad signs. 

(1) In speaking of the magpie, they confidently tell you that — 

" One is for sorrow, two for mirth, 
Three for a wedding, four for a birth ;" 

and (2) the perching of a magpie on the roof of a house is regarded as 
a good sign, a proof of that house being in no danger of falling. 

(3) We speak figuratively of the one black sheep that is the cause 
of sorrow in a family ; but in its reality it is regarded by the Sussex 
shepherd as an omen of good luck to his flock. 

(4) If a strange dog or a strange black cat come to your house 
and remain domesticated there, it brings good fortune. So when a 
cat from a distance becomes restless, and tries to make her escape, put 
her into the cold oven, for it is said that the effect upon her will bo 
that she will forget her former homo as completely as if she had 
lapped of Lethe's water. 

(5) It is considered lucky to see the new moon over your right 
shoulder. 

(6) Should you cut your nails on a Monday morning without 
thinking of a fox's tail, you will have a present made to you. 

(7) Babies' caps must bo left off on a Sunday for the first time 
and no cold will be taken. 

(8) It is lucky to put on a stocking wrong side out; but it is un- 
lucky to turn it on your discovery of the mistake, 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 



(9) Good fortune will follow if you pick up a horse-shoe. 

(10) If you were born on Christmas Day, you will neither be 
drowned nor hanged. 

(11) It is lucky to be the first to open the house-door on this 
festival ; and in my youth I was once persuaded by my nurse to get up 
with her before any other members of the family that we might divide 
this luck between us, she throwing open the door that led to the offices, 
while I admitted Christmas by the hall-door, saying, as I had been 
instructed by her, " Welcome, Old Father Christmas !" 

(12) To kill the first snake you see in any year will give you power 
over your enemies for the rest of the twelvemonth, and (13) the skin 
of a snake hung up in a house is supposed to bring good luck. 

(14) To find a swarm of bees in a hedge, or for a strange swarm to 
settle in your garden, is looked upon as a sign of extraordinary good 
fortune. 

(15) If you catch a falling leaf, you will have twelve months of 
continued happiness. 

(16) If you find nine peas in the first pod you gather, it bodes you 
good luck. 

Our prognostics of misfortune are still more numerous. 

(17) The popular belief is that one magpie seen on your left hand 
is a certain sign of coming woe. 

(18) Perhaps it is the hope of averting by extreme civility the evil 
which the magpie is about to bring upon them that induces Sussex 
people of every class to take off their hats and bow to this bird when- 
ever it suddenly appears on their left hand. Whenever I questioned 
my poorer neighbours about their evident dislike of it, they always 
answered that it was a bad bird, and knew more than it should do, and 
was always looking about and prying into other people's affairs. 

(19) There is a general belief that its perching on any beast is a 
bad omen for the animal ; and it has perhaps some truth in it : for 
before the farmer or the shepherd is aware of it, the magpie often 
smells out a lurking disease, and is known to attack and tear out the 
eyes of weakly sheep and lambs. 

We have several superstitions connected with the cuckoo. She 
(every cuckoo being a female here, in Sussex) is a general favourite, 



10 WEST SUSSEX SUrERSTlTIONS 

and I have heard her return in early Spring announced by children 
singing,— 

(20) " Tho cuckoo's a merry bird : sings as she flies j 
She brings ns good tidings, and tells us no lies. 
She picks up the dirt in the Spring of the year, 
And sucks little birds' eggs, to make her voice clear. " 

The scandal contained in the last line it would be useless to attempt 
to disprove. 

(21) When yon first hear the cuckoo in the Spring, if you have no 
money in your pocket, or do not turn it if you have, you will be poor 
for the remainder of the year. 

(22) There is a superstitious feeling that will not allow birds' eggs 
to be brought into a house, though long strings of them may generally 
be seen in Spring hanging up in out-houses. It is thought that they 
bring bad luck. " As if," says Knapp, speaking of a similar dislike 
to them in the West of England (Journal of a Naturalist, p. 225, ed. 
1838), "they were in some way offensive to tho domestic deity of the 
hearth." (23) Another egg superstition is, that the bottom of the 
shell should be always broken through by you after you have eaten 
the contents, and I remember with what energy at our nurse's bidding 
we used to burst the bottom of egg-shells with spoons to disappoint 
the witches, who, we were told, would otherwise put out to sea in 
them. 

To have one black sheep has been mentioned as an omen of good 
fortune ;* but (24) to have two or three is accounted the reverse. 

(25) Even the most favoured cat, if heard to sneeze, is instantly 
shut out of the house ; for, should she stay to repeat tho sneeze three 
times indoors, the whole family will have colds and coughs. 

Many of our Sussex superstitions are probably of Saxon origin ; 
amongst which may be (26) the custom of bowing or curtseying to 
tho new or Lady Moon, as she is styled, to deprecate bad luck. There 
is another kindred superstition (27), that the Queen of Night will 
dart malignant rays upon you, if, on the first day of her rcappriiramv, 
you look up to her without money in your pocket. But if you are not 
fortunate enough to have any there, in order to avert her evil aspect, 

* Sec (3) 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 11 



you must immediately turn head-over-lieels ! (28) It is considered 
unlucky to see the now moon through a window-pane, and I have 
known a maid -servant shut her eyes when closing the shutters lest sho 
should unexpectedly see it through the glass. (29) Do not kill your 
pig until full moon, or the pork will be ruined. 

(30) A child's nails must not be cut before it is a year old, or else 
it will be light-fingered ; and (31) should you trim your own on a 
Sunday morning, you will come to grief before Saturday. 

(32) You must not turn a feather-bed on a Sunday, or the person 
who sleeps on it will have fearful dreams for the rest of the week. 

(33) If you sell bottles that have contained medicine, you will 
require them to be filled again for yourself. 

(34) Beware, too, of singing before breakfast : if you sing before 
breakfast, you will cry before night. I have found this superstition 
prevalent amongst both gentle and simple ; and I know a very highly 
educated lady who seems to place implicit faith in it. 

(35) Those women who would avoid becoming mothers of an over- 
whelming progeny, must not allow any one to rock their cradles when 
they are empty : 

" If you rock the cradle empty 
Then you shall have babies plenty." 

A schoolmistress in the adjoining parish was always rating her 
scholars if they touched her cradle, and exclaiming, " There ! leave 
that alone, can't ye ? I have children enough already !" 

(36) It is unlucky to carry a baby downstairs before it is carried 
up, and, if there are no stairs up which it can be carried, the nurse must 
mount upon a high chair with the baby in her arms. 

(37) It is unlucky to divulge a child's intended name before its 
Baptism. (38) The water sprinkled on an infant's forehead at the 
font must on no account be wiped off; and (39) it must cry at the 
Christening, or ill luck will follow. The hold which this last super- 
stition has, even upon educated people, is extraordinary. It is believed 
that when the child cries the evil spirit is in the act of quitting it; 
and I was lately present at a Christening in Sussex, when a lady of 
the party, who was grandmother of the child, whispered in a voice of 
anxiety, " The child never cried ; why did not the nurse rouse it up ?" 



12 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

After we had left the church she said to her, " Oh ! Nurse, why did 
not you pinch baby ?" And, when the baby's good behaviour was after- 
wards commented upon, she observed, with a very serious air, u I wish 
that he had cried." 

(40) You must not collect hailstones. Old Mrs. Cooper says that 
it is manifest impiety, because if they are put into a wine-glass you 
will see that they always run through it, and leave a slop underneath. 

(41) It is ominous of evil to spill salt ; or (42) to lay your knife 
and fork across each other. These are two very wide -spread super- 
stitions. The first of them has been handed down to us from the 
Komans. Gay, who attributes both of them to his old market-woman, 
was from the north of Devonshire : 

" The salt was spilt, to me it fell, 
Then to contribute to my loss, 
My knife and fork were laid across." 

{Fable xxxvii— " The Farmer's Wife and the Raven.") 

(43) You must not give a knife or anything sharp-edged to one 
whom you love, or it will cut your love asunder. I once presented a 
servant with a pair of scissors, who at first seemed pleased, then 
coloured deeply, and producing a penny from her pocket begged me 
to take it, observing it was so unlucky to accept any sharp instrument 
without making some small return for it. 

(44) Green is an unlucky colour. I have known several instances 
of mothers absolutely forbidding it in articles of dress, or in the 
furniture of their houses. (45) But to be dressed in green and white, 
according to the popular rhymes, must, in the eyes of a Sussex 
maiden, be tantamount to wearing the willow : 

" Those dressed in blue . 
Have lovers true ; 
In green and white, 
Forsaken quite." 

(46) Never have your clothes mended on your back, or you will 
come to want. 

(47) It is very unlucky to see a snake dead or alive upon the road. 

(48) To put on the left shoe before the right is a sign of evil to 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 13 

(49) Let not Friday be your wedding-day, or you and your wife 
will lead a cat-and-dog life. (50) Begin not a piece of work on 
Friday or you will never finish it; (51) neither must you set off on a 
journey, (52) nor put out to sea on a Friday, or some misfortune will 
befall you. The superstitious dread of placing any dependence on this 
day is almost universal. A tradition, I have heard, that Adam and 
Eve ate the forbidden fruit upon a Friday, assigns a very early origin 
to its unfortunate reputation. 

(53) Bad luck always follows the killing of a house-cricket, or (54) 
the taking of a swallow's nest that is built under your eaves. (55) 
You will also bring trouble on your house, if you cut down the house- 
leek, or sungreen as it is called in Sussex, which has sprung up on 
your roof. 

(56) It is the custom, in the cider districts of Sussex, to worth 
(wassail) the apple-trees on New Year's Eve, and for several succeed- 
ing days, and it is considered unlucky to omit doing so. Farmers 
give a few pence to the worslers, who form a circle round the trees, 
and sing at the top of their voices — 

" Stand fast root, 
Bear well top, 
Pray God send us 
A good howling crop. 

Every twig 

Apples big, 

Every bough 

Apples enow. 
Hats full, caps full, 
Full quarter sacks full, 

Holla, boys, holla ! Huzzah !" 

and then all shout in chorus, with the exception of one boy, who blows 
a loud blast on a cow's horn. Last New Year's Eve the mother of a 
sick boy told me that her poor child was sadly put out because he was 
not able to go and worsle his grandfather's apple-trees ; and it is 
quite certain that both mother and child expected a total failure of 
the apple crop in the grandfather's orchard to follow the omission. 

(57) To dream of a cat is accounted unlucky — but of what is it 
not considered unlucky to dream ? (58) If your dearest friend ap- 
pears before you in your sleep, it bodes coming trouble to you or to 



14 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

him. (59) To dream about your teeth is a warning that sorrow of 
some kind is near at hand. 

(60) The following extraordinary superstition was mentioned by a 
fanner's wife Hying near Arundel. She is in the habit of making 
every year a large quantity of blackberry jam, and, finding that less 
fruit than she required had been brought to her this autumn, she said 
to the charwoman, her assistant, " I wish you would send out some of 
your children to gather me three or four pints more." " Ma'am ! " 
exclaimed the woman, " don't you know this is the 11th of October? " 
" Yes," was the answer, " Bless me, ma'am ! " the response, M and 
you ask me to let my children go out black-berrying ! Why, I 
thought everybody knew that the Devil went round on the 10th of 
October, and spat on all the blackberries, and that if any person were 
to eat one on the eleventh they or some belonging to them would die 
or fall into great trouble before the year was out. No, nothing should 
persuade me to let any child of mine go black-berrying on the 11th of 
October." (61) The watchfulness of the said Evil Spirit makes it 
dangerous to go out nutting on a Sunday, and worthy mothers may 
be heard warning their children against it by assuring them that, if 
they do so, the Devil will hold down the branches for them. We have 
a saying amongst us, "as black as the Devil's nutting-bag," which 
seems associated with this belief. 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 15 




CHAPTER II. 

OTHER WONDERS THAT ARE IMPLICITLY BELIEVED, BUT WITH- 
OUT ANY GOOD OR EVIL CONSEQUENCES BEING ATTACHED 
TO THEM. 

ENTION will now be made of a large class of superstitions, 
which are simply wondrous fictions implicitly accepted 
as facts, on no ground whatever. 

(62) We believe in Sussex that a snake, though cut in 
two, cannot die until the sun has set ; and I have heard of (63) a 
labourer declaring that the " queer marks " on the belly of the deaf 
adder could be made out to be — 

" If I could hear as well as see, 
No mortal man should master me. " 

From time immemorial, snakes or serpents so big that they looked 
like dragons have terrified the population of our rural districts, and 
during the past year what is called in our expressive dialect "an 
oudacious large one " was said to be in this neighbourhood. Its lair 
was near a by-path, which it would not permit any one to traverse. It 
would rush out and drive back with a terrible hissing and a very bad 
smell any luckless wight who wandered in that direction. This 
audacious snake is doubtless a relation of the dragon serpent reported 
to have inhabited St. Leonard's forest in the seventeenth century, 
and which (says the author of the "true and wonderful" account of 
it) was ofttimes seen " at a place called Faygate, and it hath been seen 
within half a mile of Horsham, a wonder, no doubt, most terrible and 
noisome to the inhabitants thereabouts." He then gives a long descrip- 
tion of the serpent, which he ends by saying that "there are likewise 
on either side of him discovered two great bunches so big as a large 
foot-ball, and, as some think, will in time grow to wings ; but God, I 
hope, will defend the poor people in the neighbourhood, that he shall 



IG WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

be destroyed before he grow so fledged." A man going to chase it, 
and as he thought to destroy it, with two mastiff dogs, (the author 
tells us) " as yet not knowing the great danger of it, his dogs were 
both killed, and he himself glad to return with haste to preserve his 
own life."* 

(64) It is a popular belief that immense wealth lies buried under 
ground in various localities, and that it is mysteriously guarded from 
all interference. In a neighbouring parish the spot adjoins a road 
that sounds " awful hollow " as you walk over it, and in this instance 
the buried treasure has a very watchful guard, which instantly starts 
out of a ditch if it hears any one approaching. A woman told the 
clergyman's wife that she had actually seen it, and that it was clad in 
brown. An old inhabitant of Pulborough has assured me that there 
is great wealth buried under the Mount there, and that they once had 
a clergyman who used to dig round about it probably, I should think, 
engaged in some archaeological investigation relative to the mound. 
In our own parish we have a nightly watcher over some hidden 
treasures in a wood through which a public foot-path passes, that 
certainly sounds hollow to the tread from the interlacement of the 
masses of roots below it. It is traversed but by few after dark, from 
a dread of encountering this unearthly guardian. The folk share the 
superstition of Horatio in his suggestion to the Ghost of Hamlet's 
father: 

" If thou hast uphoarded in thy life 
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth, 
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death " 

(Act i. Sc. 1.) 

At Offington, near Worthing, an old seat of the Delawarrs, a blocked- 
up passage, which can only be approached from the cellars, is si ill 
believed to communicate with the encampment on Cisbury Hill, and 
to be full of buried treasures. Some years ago there was a story 

* The full title of this account is True and Wonderful A Discourse relating 
a strange and monstrous serpent, or dragon, lately discorered and yd tiring to 
the great annoyance and dims slaughters both men and cattell, by his strong 
and riolent poyson. J n Sussr.r, f >ro mihs from Jforsam, in a wood e calhd St. 
Leonard's Forrest, and thirtic miles from London, this present month of August, 
1i;i I. Printed at London hy Joint Trundle lt',1 I. A reprint of it is to be 
found in part vii. of the Miscellanea Antiqua Anglicana, by Charles Hindlcy. 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 17 

current of the then occupier of the house having offered half the 
money to be found there to anybody who would clear out the subter- 
ranean passage, and that several persons had begun digging, but had 
all been driven back by large snakes springing at them with open 
mouths and angry hisses. 

(65) There is an old belief, held by many here, that on St. John's 
Eve all the beasts of the field go down upon their knees at the hour 
of midnight. We have also the extraordinary superstition that (6Q) 
the ghosts of dogs occasionally walk abroad, unheard, unseen, except 
by their own species. I was once informed by a servant, whom I had 
desired to go downstairs and try to stop the barking of a dog, which I 
was afraid would waken a sleeping invalid, that nothing would stop his 
noise, for she knew quite well, by his manner of barking, that the 
ghost of another dog was walking about the garden and terrifying him. 

(67) We believe in Sussex that a curse lights upon the ground on 
which human blood has been shed, the same effect being produced as 
would follow the sowing of it with salt, that it will remain barren for 
ever. There is a dark-looking piece of ground totally devoid of 
verdure in the parish of Kirdford, which is said to have been once 
green with grass, but the grass withered away soon after the blood 
of a poacher who was shot there trickled down upon the spot. 

(68) There is a childish legend current with us, if not popularly 
believed, that a certain old woman of irascible temper has charge of 
all the cuckoos, and that in the spring she fills her apron with them, 
and, if she is in a good humour, allows several to take flight, but only 
permits one or two to escape if anything has happened to sour her 
temper. This spring a woman of the village complained quite patheti- 
cally of the bad humour of the cuckoo-keeper, who had only let one 
bird fly out of her apron, and " that 'ere bird is nothing to call a 
singer." (69) Some of us think that at a certain period the cuckoo 
changes into a hawk. 

(70) A cat born in May is supposed to be inclined to melancholy, 
and to be much addicted to catching snakes and reptiles and bringing 
them into the house. I had heard that this West-country belief existed 
in our village ; and, very lately observing a most dejected looking cat 
by the fire in a cottage, said in jest, " I should think that cat was born 



18 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

in May." " Oh yes," said the owner of it, " that she was, and so was 
her mother ; and she was just as sad looking, and was always bringing 
snakes and vipers within doors." 

(71) The belief that a baby and a kitten cannot thrive in the same 
house is far from being peculiar to Sussex. 

(72) They say that a tree with a magpie's nest in it was never 
known to fall.* The instinct of the bird may lead it to fix upon a 
firmly-rooted tree, but the assumed fact is stated as a proof of its 
supernatural knowledge and of its being in league with the powers of 
darkness.f 

(73) The fern-owl (Strix caprimulgus) is in the west of Sussex called 
the puck bird, or puck, which was an old Gothic word for Satan ; and 
it probably received the name from a belief existing among the lower 
class of persons that it is a mischievous sprite, which inflicts on calves 
and heifers a disease here called the " puck complaint," and in some 
parts of England the u puckeridge." There are places where the bird 
itself is so named. When it makes its suspicious descents on the 
bodies of cattle grazing in the summer evenings, it is an object of 
terror to the superstitious, who regard its evolutions as it springs 
up suddenly from the grass in the dusk, or flies around them, making 
its long pliant wings clash over its back with a loud snap, as not 
being those of any earthly bird. A servant here, sent upon an errand, 
who was very long in returning, gave as a reason for the delay that 
the puck would fly before her, and she did not dare to cross its path. 
Jesse mentions in his Gleanings in Natural History (3rd S. p. 189) 
that an old farmer told him he had been sometimes so boldly attacked 
by the fern-owl when returning home late of an evening as to be in 
some degree of fear. He adds, however, that instead of being noxious 
and mischievous it is the most harmless and useful of birds. 

* See (2). f Sec (18). 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 19 




CHAPTER III. 

GHOSTS, GOBLINS, WITCHES AND FAIRIES. 

BELIEF in the apparition of Ghosts and Goblins still 
maintains its hold upon the minds of our West Sussex 
peasantry almost as firmly as in the time of their less- 
instructed forefathers. I do not know to what enlighten- 
ment in these matters the youth of other counties have attained, 
but I can bear witness to the contemporary darkness of young 
Sussex. A short time ago there was committed to me the teaching 
of a Sunday School class composed principally of tradesmen's children, 
who, on my asking them if they knew what was meant by their 
" ghostly enemy." one and all replied, " Yes, a spirit that comes 
back from the grave;" and as they showed an eagerness to tell me 
everything they knew upon the subject, I allowed them to go on. 
They then spoke all at once, and quite overwhelmed me with the 
stories of what their fathers, mothers, brothers, or relations, in whom 
they placed the same implicit trust, had seen. (74) Some spirits 
were reported to walk about without their heads, others carried them 
under their arms, and one, haunting a dark lane, had a ball of fire 
upon its shoulders in lieu of the natural finial. On my explaining 
the true meaning of the term " ghostly enemy," a fresh torrent of 
superstitious narrative burst forth. (75) One boy knew a man who 
had seen the devil, and another told a fearful story of a poor sinner 
who saw little devils dancing round his bed " when he was a dying," 
though nobody else could see them ; and then followed the account of 
a man who was always seeing the devil, or the " black man," as he 
was styled by most of them. 

Their early Sussex nurture had been probably too like my own ; for 
what nights of misery does that name, the black man, bring back to 
my memory ! I almost shudder now at the recollection of the 
sleepless hours he caused me in my childhood, and of the dark closet 

c2 



20 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

in my bedroom from which I had been taught to look for his appear- 
ance with " Dame Dark." Such tales by superstitious nurses are 
very generally prevalent. 

(7G) There stood, and still may stand, upon the downs, close to 
Broadwater, an old oak-tree, that I used, in days gone by, to gaze at 
with an uncomfortable and suspicious look from having heard that 
always on Midsummer Eve, just at midnight, a number of skeletons 
started up from its roots, and, joining hands, danced round it till cock- 
crow, and then as suddenly sank down again. My informant knew 
several persons who had actually seen this dance of death, but one 
young man in particular was named to me who, having been detained 
at Finden by business till very late, and forgetting that it was Mid- 
summer Eve, had been frightened (no difficult matter we may suspect) 
out of his very senses by seeing the dead men capering to the rattling 
of their own bones. 

I could give many a village tale of later years in proof of the exist- 
ing belief of these ghostly visitants often appearing amongst us. 
Sometimes they are supposed to come in order to inform us of a death 
of which we have not previously had any notification, or they come with 
a dejected look to signify that all is not right, and they wish inquiries 
to be made about their death and burial, or the purpose of their 
coming is to upbraid an unkind husband or wife with his or her ill- 
treatment of them. And sometimes they are ghostly representatives 
of the living, such as those apparitions of a lover or a future husband 
to be mentioned in the chapter of superstitions associated with love 
and marriage.* 

(77) "We have amongst us ghosts even of the brute creation ; a 
headless horse tears madly up and down a lane in Tillington, and the 
apparition of a headless pig is seen occasionally in the parish. 

(78) It is likely that the present disposition to believe in ghost 
stories is in a great measure traditionary from the last generation, 
when smuggling was in the ascendant. For I believe that the vigi- 

* A ghost, "not three feet in height, and dressed in a round frock and 
brown gaiters," has heen seen repeatedly hy the keepers of Captain Barttelot 
[now Sir Walter Barttelot, M.P.] in the wood about Ililliers; one of the men 
saw it standing by a stile, and attempted to catch hold of it, but his hand passed 
through the figure ! 




WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 21 

lance of the Preventive Service has laid many ghosts in Sussex ; there 
being very little doubt that the numerous ghosts seen wandering for- 
merly in blue flames, near lonely houses on the coast, were of an illicit 
class of spirits, raised by the smugglers in order to alarm and drive 
all others but their accomplices from their haunts. In those days the 
unearthly noises heard night after night in a house at Rottingdean 
caused such alarm amongst the servants that they all gave warning ; 
when suddenly the noises ceased, and soon afterwards one of a gang 
of smugglers, who had fallen into the hands of the police, confessed 
to their having made a secret passage from the beach close by this 
house, and, that wishing to induce the occupiers to abandon it, they 
had been in the habit of rolling at the dead of night tub after tub of 
spirits up the passage, and had so caused it to be reported that the 
place was haunted. 

Much discomfort was, about the same time, caused in another house 
upon the coast, by the nightly report of noises being heard beneath 
the kitchen floor, and crockery rattling, and chairs and tables being 
moved from their places, by some unseen agency. But, when the 
cook, at last, solemnly assured her master, that one evening, just as it 
was growing dusk, a ghostly head, with black hair and fiery eyes, had 
risen up suddenly from the floor and shaken itself at her, he thought 
it time to investigate the matter. Accordingly one Sunday night, 
when all the servants had gone out, he seated himself behind a screen 
in the kitchen, and waited for the apparition of the head. At length 
a tremulous motion was perceptible in the floor, and presently a head 
arose through a small opening, a pair of eyes belonging to it wandered 
cautiously around, and ascertained that the kitchen apparently was 
empty. And then the body belonging to the head was preparing to 
climb up, when the master of the house, springing forward and seizing 
with no gentle grasp the hands that rested on the sides of the opening 
in the floor, inflicted a greater fright on the apparition than it had 
done on the poor cook. It proved not to be a silent ghost, but 
begged for mercy like a mortal, and promised, if permitted to descend 
again in peace, and unmolested, to the lower regions, to tell nothing 
but the truth. The story of the owner of the black head and fiery eyes 
was simply that a gang of smugglers had long kept the house and 



22 WEST SUSSEX SUPEUSTITIONS. 

premises, which were convenient for the carrying on their trade, un- 
tenanted, by reporting that they were haunted ; and, when it was 
re-occupied, had succeeded in reviving and obtaining credit to their 
old report, by a contrivance which enabled them from time to time to 
displace the furniture in the kitchen, and cause the pots and pans to 
play such fantastic tricks as made the servants weep with fright. Tho 
business on that evening, which had been so unexpectedly interrupted, 
was to upset the furniture, put the glass and china in strange spots, 
and create such confusion as might alarm the servants on their return, 
and tend to scare them from the place. 

The Preventive men, however, as I have already remarked, have 
done much towards banishing many a long-cherished superstition. Often, 
in the last generation, from the windows of some uninhabited house — 

" A wond'rous blaze was seen to gleam : 

T'was broader than the watch-fire's light, 
And redder than the bright moon-beam," 

and such lights were regarded as the tokens of coming woe. But the 
old folk, " Time's doting chronicles," will tell you in simplicity, " It's 
a queer thing ; but them lights, that were so common years ago, have 
seldom been seen of late years." These supernatural lights, it is now 
well ascertained, were put up as signals to smuggling cutters, whose 
crews would understand by them whether it was safe to land their 
cargoes or not. 

Of haunted houses we can boast a score ; but, their nightly visitants 
being of the usual common-place description, I shall say no more 
about them, than that some are of the class of those unquiet spirits 
who return to earth in order to have the dark stain, supposed to have 
been left there by their blood, erased from some chamber floor, and 
upon which, you are assured, both soap and scrubbing-brush have been 
tried scores of times, and yet the tell-tale spots remain. Scott, in his 
amusing story (in the introduction to the second series of Chronicles of 
the Canongate) of the alarm of the old housekeeper at Holyrood, when 
the cockney agent of a great London house would have fetched out, 
in live minutes, with his scouring-drops, the stains of blood shed upon 
the floor on the night of Ilizzio's assassination, states his own opinion 
that, if blood be allowed to sink into wood, the stain becomes indelible 




WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 23 

by anything but the carpenter's plane. But we know better than 
this in Sussex ; for (79) I have been told of blood-stained boards being 
planed, and that in less than four-and-twenty hours the spots have 
always reappeared. 

(80) A man of notoriously bad character, who lived in a lonely 
spot at the foot of our South Downs, without any companion of either 
sex, was believed to be nightly haunted by evil spirits in the form of 
rats. And an old woman told me, with a shudder, that persons pass- 
ing near his cottage late at night had heard him cursing them, and 
desiring them to let him rest in peace. It was her belief, she said, 
that they were sent to do judgment on him, and would carry him away 
some night or other. But he Avas not to die the death of Bishop 
Hatto ; for, whatever might have been the expectation of his neigh- 
bours, he received his death-blow in a drunken brawl. 

(81) Numbers of our people believe in u the might of magic spell," 
and in the power of witches and wizards to work them ill, and to 
reveal to them the future events of their lives, and imagine that they 
have acquired this power and knowledge by selling themselves to the 
Evil One. They fear witchcraft, and have their remedies and prevent- 
ives for it. There lived, till very lately, in a village near Chichester, 
a woman of indifferent character, who was never spoken of by the 
villagers by any other name than that of " the Witch." All appeared 
to dread her power, and every sudden misfortune that befell them was 
ascribed to her ; but, instead of saying that they were bewitched, they 
used the very singular expression of being " sin-struck " by the witch. 
The groom of a gentleman* residing in the parish assured his master 
that there was no resisting her power, and added, " If she willed that 
I should sit across the roof of this stable from morning to night she'd 
have me up there in an instant, and nothing could bring me down till 
she gave me leave to come." 

(82) In proof that a belief in witchcraft is still lingering in the west 

of Sussex, I may add the case of an assault, lately before a bench of 

magistrates,! in which the defendant declared that she should not 

have molested the plaintiff had she not found out that she was a witch. 

She had long had her suspicions how it was, and she had watched and 

* Mr. Paxton, of Westdeau, near Chichester. 

f Reported to me by Major Sandham, J.P., who was present. 



24 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

watched for an opportunity of setting her mind at ease about it, and at 
last she managed, unseen by her, to scratch her (the witch's) arm with 
a crooked pin she carried about with her for this purpose, and, when 
no blood came, then she up with her fist and gave it her well. On the 
magistrates' inquiring whether the plaintiff had ever molested her in 
any way, she replied that she had suspected her of doing her many an 
unkind turn, and that she now knew that she had come in at the key- 
hole when her child was in its cradle, and had thrown him into fits. 
The plaintiff was most unlike our old ideal image of a witch, being a 
remarkably tall, fat, rosy, good-tempered looking woman. 

(83) Not many years ago a farmer residing on the western border 
of Sussex and Surrey seriously declared that the witches were in the 
habit of riding his horses by night, as they were often found by him 
in the morning covered with dirt and perspiration, and in a state of 
great exhaustion. This marvel, too, like many of our ghost stories, 
might probably be accounted for by the lawless practices of the gangs 
of smugglers, who took the liberty of borrowing the farmer's horses for 
the night-work of bringing up their kegs of brandy from the coast. 

(84) There is a strong persuasion that certain persons have a super- 
natural and mysteriously acquired foreknowledge ; and there is, I be- 
lieve, still living in the parish of Bury a cunning woman, to whom 
young men and maidens resort, to inquire from her whether their 
presumptive husbands or wives will be short or tall, rich or poor, dark 
or fair, only a few months since I heard of three young girls, attired 
in their Sunday best, walking from a distant town to consult her. 

(85) If you nail a horseshoe that you have picked up over your 
door it will prevent all witches and evil spirits crossing the threshold. 
I have seen several doors that can boast of this protecting talisman. 
(86) An old woman in Tillington parish keeps, with religious care, a 
printed copy of the apocryphal epistle of our Lord to Abgarus, King 
of Edessa, which she bought from a travelling man (that is, a pedlar), 
who told her that if she stuck it up on her kitchen-wall, it would 
preserve her and her house from witchcraft and the evil eye.* 

* This is a letter said to have been written by Christ in answer to an invitation 
from Abgarus, King of Edessa, to visit his city Sec The Apocryphal New 
Testament (London: Printed for William Ifonc, Lvihjutt JIM, 1820). 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 25 

My own household once exhibited an unquestionable proof of their 
disposition to believe in witchcraft. They declared that at a certain 
hour, on several successive nights, the back kitchen door had shaken 
violently, though no one was near it, and that the wooden latch 
had moved up and down ; that they had looked out through the win- 
dow, but not a human being was to be seen. One night the cook, the 
heroine of the party, had had the courage, while the latch was actually 
moving, to throw open the door, and what did she see ? Nothing but 
darkness visible. They thought it must be witchcraft. But this was 
not to be endured ; and a report of these mysterious doings being laid 
before the mistress of the house, and proper means resorted to to 
ascertain the cause of the disturbance, at length the author of it was 
detected, caught in the very act, and proved to be a cat, that used to 
sleep and have his supper set for him in the back kitchen, but, being 
of an erratic disposition, and having become a keeper of late hours, he 
returned home after the house was shut up, and attempted to get in by 
springing from the ground and catching, as he had been often seen to 
do, at the string that lifted up the latch. (87) Fortunate was it for 
the servants' peace of mind that it was not a strange cat that was dis- 
covered so employed, for in that case their worst suspicions must have 
been confirmed, since nothing would have induced them to believe that 
it was not a witch that had assumed the shape. The whiskered race are 
on the whole, however, more loved than feared by our Sussex peasantry 
— but there is a belief (88) that if left alone in the same room with an 
infant in a cradle they will creep in and suck its breath, a superstition 
probably derived from the old general belief in witchcraft. For the 
witch, who declared — 

" Under a cradle I did creep 
By day; and, when the child was asleep 
At night, I sucked the breath," 

had first taken upon her the form of a cat. 

(89) Persons afflicted with epileptic fits are supposed to be bewitched, 
and a very extraordinary remedy is sometimes resorted to for their 
cure. A lady* of my acquaintance has told me the following curious 
story. She had observed, upon a cottage hearth, a quart bottle filled 

* Mrs. Paxton of Westdcan. 



26 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

with pins ; and, on inquiring why they were put there, was requested 
not to touch the bottle, as it was red hot, and because, if she did so, 
she would spoil the charm. " What charm V she asked, in some 
surprise ; " Why, ma'am," replied the woman, u it has pleased God to 
afflict my daughter here with falling-fits, and the doctors did her no 
good ; so I was recommended to go to a wise woman, who lives on this 
side of Guildford, and she said, if she was well paid for it, 6he could 
tell me what ailed the girl, and what would cure her. So I said I was 
agreeable, and she told me that people afflicted with falling-fits were 
bewitched, and that I must get as many pins as would fill a quart 
bottle, and put them into it, and let it stand close to the fire, upon tho 
hearth, till the pins were red hot ; and, when that came about, they 
would prick the heart of the witch who had brought this affliction on 
my poor girl, and she would then be glad enough to take it off." I 
have learned from a medical gentleman* in this neighbourhood, that 
within his experience it was a very common thing for people in cases 
of long illness to ask the doctor who attended them if he did not 
think that they were suffering from the effects of the evil eye, or that 
they were bewitched. He told me, that, when a house in Pulborough 
was, a few years ago, undergoing a thorough repair, on removing tho 
hearth- stone in one of the rooms, a bottle containing upwards of two 
hundred pins was found ; every pin being bent, and some of them 
nearly in a curve. A gentleman present took up the bottle, and 
expressed his surprise at its being there, and at its contents, when tho 
workmen told him that they often found them, and that they were 
deposited under the hearth-stone (with certain ceremonies, that, my 
informant said, were ludicrous, but unfit for him to relate) for the 
purpose of protecting the house against witchcraft. The superstitious 
custom which has been already mentioned of breaking through tho 
bottom of an egg-shell after eating its contents as a preventive of 
witchcraft shows our lingering belief in it.f 

There certainly is very little poetry or romance generally speaking 
in the Sussex folk-lore, but a belief of fairies and of fairy-land is still 
lingering amongst us. (90) Those singular circles in the grass 
known by tho name of fairy-rings, " tho green sour ringlets whereof 

* Mr. Martin of Pulborough. f See (23). 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 27 

the ewe not bites" (Tempest, v. 1 ) are still believed to be caused by the 
feet of the fairies who have danced there in a round — unseen, unheard ; 
arid Dr. Wollaston's* less romantic theory, that they owe their origin 
to a certain kind of fungus, would find little favour. We still regard 
the beautiful red cup-moss as the fairies' baths. In days gone by the 
little good folk appear to have been extremely common in Sussex, for 
it has been observedf that many of our farms and closes seem to owe 
their names to their having been the reputed haunts of fairies — such 
as Pook-ryde (Folk-ryde), Pook-hole, Pook-croft, Pook-bournc, and 
to this list we may add Fay-gate, near Horsham. It is suggested by 
the same writer that the sharp end of the seed-vessel of the needle 
scandix (S. pecten), called here by the common people " the pook- 
needle," may have been regarded as belonging to the fairies. The 
common name in the west of Sussex for the puff-ball is " Puck's 
stool." 

There is an unromantic fairy-tale told in our nurseries the scene of 
which is laid in West Sussex, how, once upon a time, two men stole 
a pig, and put it in a sack, and laid the sack down upon the ground 
just over a hole in which dwelt a fairy, who contrived to step into the 
sack in the form and in the place of the real grunter. The men were 
to take it in turns to carry the sack, and as one of them was toiling 
with his heavy load up a steep ascent he was startled to see a very 
little figure running close by his side, and asking, in a melancholy 
voice, u Dick, Dick, where be you?" and much was his alarm 
increased when a voice from the sack replied, 

" In a sack, 
Pick-a-back, 
Riding up Beeding Hill." 

The frightened men of course threw down the sack and ran away, and 
the good fairy resumed his own form and returned to his home by the 
pigsty, rejoicing that he had saved the pig from the thieves, it being 
the property of a man for whom the fairies had a liking. 

• PHI Trans. 1807, pt. 2. 

f By Mr. Blcncowc, Sussex Arcficeol. Coll. iii. p. 124. 



28 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

(91) I have often heard our cook repeating over her churn, when 
the butter was slow in forming : 

" Come, butter, come, 
Come, butter, come, 
Peter stands at tbe gate, 
Waiting for a buttered cake, 
Come, butter, come !"* 

And this charm she repeated three times, in order that it might oblige 
the witch, who had affected the cream, and, like Robin Goodfellow, 
" bootless made the breathless housewife churn," to run away, and at 
the same time bring the good fairies to her assistance. 

(92) There is a tradition in the parish of Pulborough of a fairy's 
funeral, and the veiy place of burial is pointed out to you. It is at 
the top of a green mound, known by the name of the Mount, f and it 
would be hard to find a more fitting spot for such a funeral train to 
assemble at. But the favourite Sussex fairy tale in the days of my 
youth was one which cannot but remind us of the story told upon the 
ovening of the " sun-shine holiday" in L> Allegro, how the drudging, 
goblin swet, — 

" When in one nigbt, ere glimpse of morn, 
His shadowing flail hath threshed the corn." 

(93) A farmer at Washington, who had been often surprised, on 
going into his barn early in the morning, to see large heaps of corn 
that had been threshed during the night, determined at last to sit up, 
and discover, if possible, who the kind friends were who worked so 
hard and well for him whilst he was taking his rest. So creeping to 
the barn-door, and looking through a chink in it, he was astonished at 
seeing two little fairies working away with their fairy flails, and only 
stopping for an instant, now and then, to say to each other, " See 
how I sweat! See how I sweat!" the very consequence of the 



* In A Candle in the Darh by Thomas Ady, published in 1G55, he states 
that he was told this charm by an old witch ; she declared that her grandmother 
had learnt it in the days of Queen Mary. 

t See (64). 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 29 

labour of the " lubbar fiend" in Milton. The farmer in his de- 
light, forgetting that fairies are offended if a mortal speaks to 
them, cried out, with a loud laugh, "Well done, my little men;" 
and instantly (the story says) the little men uttered a wild cry 
and disappeared, and neyer more were known to resume their work 
in that barn. 



30 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 




CHAPTER IV. 

OMENS AND PRESAGES ASSOCIATED WITH LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 

|HOULD a girl wish to ascertain what will be the personal 
appearance of her future husband, she must sit across a 
gate or stile and look steadfastly at the first new moon 
that rises after New Year's day. She must go alone 

and must not have confided her intention of doing so to any one, and 

when the moon appears it is thus apostrophized — 

" All hail to thee, moon ! All hail to thee ! 
I pray thee, good moon, reveal to me 
This night who my husband must be. 1 ' 

I know no recent instance of this charm being tried, but I hear that 

the new January moon is still watched by our Sussex maidens, who, 

shivering with cold and fear, see the likeness of the future husband 

come — 

" Up the house stalking 
And the vera grey breeks o' Tam Glen ! " 

We can indeed boast of almost as many sure experiments for 
ascertaining our fate in love and marriage as the Scotch, and two of 
them are practised on the eve of the 31st of October, our Hallowe'en, 
a night on which monie lads' and lasses' fates are decided. I have 
been sometimes asked for nuts and apples, in order that these charms 
might be tried. (95) The nuts are placed in a bright fire side by 
side, the one of them belonging to a youth, the other to a maiden, who, 
after thinking of the loved name, repeat to themselves these words, 
varying the pronoun according to sex, — 

" If he loves me, pop and fly, 
If he hates me, lie and die." 

Anxious faces arc seen round the hearth, while the owners of the 
nuts arc listening eagerly for the hoped-for pop, and great is the dis- 
may of the proprietor of that which dies and makes no sign. 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 31 

(96) The apple charm is very simple, consisting merely in every 
person present fastening an apple on a string, hung and twirled round 
before a hot fire. The owner of the apple that first falls off is declared 
to be upon the point of marriage ; and as they fall successively, the 
order in which the rest of the party will attain to matrimonial honours 
is clearly indicated ; single blessedness being the lot of the one whose 
apple is the last to drop. It will be remembered that the burning 
nuts and roasting apples are amongst the Scottish spells of Burns's 
Hallowe'en, and it may be noted with regard to the nuts that we in 
Sussex interpret the sign diversely, for in Scotland a silent burning 
forebodes a smooth course and happy issue of the courtship, whilst 
the contrary may be looked for if the nuts " start awa' with saucy 
pride." 

(97) Our custom of cutting the common brake or fern just above 
the root to ascertain the initial letters of the future wife's or husband's 
name bears some resemblance .to the pulling up of the nail-plant in 
Scotland, the first ceremony of Hallowe'en. 

(98) There is an experimental spell which I have tried sometimes 
in my youth in Sussex. A ring, or piece of money, is suspended by a 
thread or hair, and held as steadily as may be within a glass. The 
belief is, that when it begins to oscillate it will strike the number of 
years that are to pass before the holder of the thread is married. 

(99) A spell less pardonable than these is sometimes resorted to in 
order to ascertain which of two persons will first be married. A key 
is fastened with a string within the pages of a small Bible, the ring 
of the key protruding from it, by which ring the book is to be sus- 
pended from a finger of each of the two young people who are trying 
their matrimonial fate. They stand as motionless as possible and 
repeat a verse from the Bible, usually the 16th of the first chapter of 
Ruth — " Intreat me not to leave thee," &c. After waiting a short 
time the fingers of course move imperceptibly, and the book turning 
slowly round presents a corner to one of the holders of the key, who 
is pronounced by the lookers-on to be the favoured one. I have heard 
even well-educated persons confess, not quite without a dash of super- 
stitious belief, to having. borne part in this strange ceremony. 



32 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

(100) There is a charm used in Sussex, which is also a Devonshire 
superstition, for discovering your real sweetheart. Pluck the yarrow 
(millefoliwn, or nose-bleed) growing on a young man's grave, re- 
peating, as you do so, the words following — (they are the Devonshire 
lines, but our own, which I have not copied, are almost identical) — 

" Yarrow, sweet yarrow, the first that I have found, 
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pluck it from the ground ; 
As Joseph loved sweet Mary, and took her for his dear, 
So in a dream this night, I hope, my true love will appear," 

and then go to sleep, with the yarrow under your pillow. 

(101) Fortunes matrimonial are often told by seers at home from 
the grounds or sediment remaining at the bottom of a tea-cup ; and 
where to unenlightened eyes nothing is apparent but a little black 
dust floating in a slop, we are assured that those who have the wit to 
do so may discern a meaning. 

(102) I have known a learned woman confidently foretell the 
future lot in matrimony of all her fellow-servants with a pack of 
cards. The cards were dealt round by her into heaps, with much 
mystical calculation, and the fortunate maiden who found the ace of 
diamonds in her heap was to marry a rich man ; but she who found 
the knave of clubs or spades would have nothing but poverty and 
misery in her wedded state. The king of diamonds or of hearts 
pointed out to the possessor that her partner for life would be a fair 
man, while the holding of the king of clubs or spades gave warning 
that he would be dark. It is not quite so obvious why the possession 
of the knaves of hearts or diamonds showed that you had an unknown 
enemy. 

(103) Matrimonial and other fortunes are also told by the white 
marks on the finger-nails. The seers commence with the thumb, and say 
"a gift," and judge of its probable size by that of the mark ; they then 
touch the forefinger, and add " a friend," and gravely tell you, should 
they find a spot upon the nail of the middle finger, that you have an 
enemy somewhere. It is the presence or the absence of such a mark 
on the third finger that proves your future good or ill success in love ; 
one on the little finger warns you that you will soon have to go a 
journey. 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 33 



(104) A bride, on her return from church, is often robbed of all 
the pins about her dress by the single women present, from the belief 
that whoever possesses one of them will be married in the course of a 
year. (105) But a yellow, crooked pin must on no account be picked 
up, or the tidy person who removes it from the floor will die an old 
maid. Often have I heard the warning given, not to touch " the 
nasty thing." 

(106) If bees make their nest in the roof of a house, none of the 
daughters born in that dwelling will marry. 

(107) It is some time since I last heard of any young persons 
seeking to ascertain their matrimonial fate by sowing hemp-seed : but 
the old superstition still maintains its place in popular belief. The 
stout-hearted maiden must steal out alone to the church-yard, and 
sow a handful of hemp-seed, and pretend to harrow it with anything 
she can drag after her, saying — 

" Hemp-seed, I sow thee, 
Hemp-seed, I sow thee ; 
And he that is my true love 
Come after me and mow thee ! " 

and then she is to look over her left shoulder, and she will see a man 
mowing as he follows her. There are, however, only certain days in 
the year when the charm will take effect : one, if I remember right, is 
Midsummer, or St. John's Eve, on which our ancestors used to prac- 
tise so many superstitious observances ; dancing around fires, crowned 
with garlands, and leaping over them " with words devout and prayers, 
whereby they think, through all that year, from agues to be free." 

We no longer light our bonfires on the eve of good St. John in 
Sussex, but some of the old superstitious feelings with respect to it 
still linger amongst us; and simple maidens have confessed in my 
hearing to their having (108), just before midnight, washed their 
sarks, and hung them out to dry before the kitchen fire, and waited 
to see who would come in and turn them. The kitchen door must be 
set wide open, or the charm will not work. In one case, I was in- 
formed, a very tall man in black came in, and turned the sark, and 
then slowly walked away again. This is another Sussex superstition, 

D 



34 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

almost the same with one in Bnrns's Hallowe'en, where we are told 
of the fright the widow Leezie got, who went to — 

* Where three lairds' lands met at a burn, 
To dip her left sark sleeve in;" 

how she plnmpit in the pool, when — 

" The deil, or else an outler quey,* 
Gat up and gie a croon;" 

and prevented her finishing her spell. 

* An unhoused heifer. 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 35 




CHAPTER V. 

CHARMS AND OBSERVATIONS BELIEVED TO BE EFFECTUAL FOR THE 
CURE OR THE AVOIDANCE OF DIFFERENT AILMENTS. 

LTHOUGH charms are no longer universally regarded 
as infallible cures, there are thousands amongst our rural 
population who still place more faith in them than in 
the skill of the doctor. A singular proof of this fact 
came under my observation a short time since, and in truth first led 
me to inquire into the existence of other popular superstitions. 

(109) A poor woman in the village where I live had been very 
seriously scalded, and was in great suffering when I visited her; but 
still resolutely refused to let me send for the parish surgeon or apply 
any remedy whatsoever. Some days after I discovered that she had 
no faith in any other cure for a burn than a certain word- charm ; and 
that the charm, to be quite efficacious, must be repeated over it on a 
Sunday evening. She therefore remained in great pain till Sunday 
arrived, and then sent for an old woman, who (as an eye-witness 
informed me) " bowed her head over the wound, crossed two of her 
fingers over it, and, after repeating some words to herself, huffed, or 
breathed quickly, on it." I was anxious to obtain this word-charm ; 
but was told that persons who were so fortunate as to possess it kept 
it secret ; at length I induced a noted charmer to repeat it to me, 
after she had assured me more than once that there was no harm in 
using it, for it was only a blessing, and had nothing to do with witch- 
craft. It is given verbatim, as I wrote it down at the time I heard it : 

" There came two Angels from the North, 
One was Fire, and one was Frost. 
Out Fire : in Frost, 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." 

The discovery of this singular cure for a burn induced me to search 
for other charms of a similar nature, that I soon found were held in 

u 2 



6b WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

high repute in the village. I accordingly paid a visit to an ancient 
dame who kept a small day-school, and was also a celebrated com- 
pounder of ointments, a collector of simples, and said to be a charmer 
of wounds caused by thorns. She assured me that many people came 
to her with bad wounds, and got her " to say her blessing over them; 
and a power of people she had cured with it in the course of her life." 
It was only four lines, and, as I seemed curious about them, she did 
not mind repeating them to me. (110) And then, holding up one of 
her fingers, and looking as earnestly at it as she could have done had 
there been a thorn to be charmed out of it, she said in a grave and 
mysterious tone, — 

" Our Saviour Christ was of a pure virgin born, 
And He was crowned with a thorn; 
I hope it may not rage nor swell; 
I trust in God it may do well." 

Once induced to confess that she was a dealer in charms, the old 
dame became communicative on the subject, and told me that she had 
inherited from her mother a charm for the bite of a viper, and another 
that cured giddiness in cattle ; but that, in moving from the upper 
part of the village to the lower, she had had the misfortune to lose 
them both. In her time, however, she had worked surprising cures 
with them, and it often was a comfort to her to remember that, though 
silver and gold had she none, she had been able to do some good by 
her blessings : for which she never made any charge. When she was 
a young girl just going out to service, those for a burn and a thorn 
wound had been taught her by an old shepherd, who lodged with her 
mother, and who thought they might put a little money in her 
pocket. There was an old man, she went on to say, who lived out by 
Midhurst, noted for the cure of burns by a word-charm. He said the 
Lord's prayer over them, with his fingers crossed over the burn; and, 
after blowing upon it, said : " In the name of the Father, Son, 
and Holy Ghost, I hope it may do well;" and she named numerous 
cases in which the raging heat had instantly ceased, and the burn 
been cured by this blessing, after the doctor's stuff had been tried in 
vain. 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 37 

(111) Much did she grieve over the loss of her viper charm; it 
had done such a power of good. She had tried it once on a lad who 
had been stung by a viper coiled up in a bird's nest, into which ho 
put his hand. His arm went on to rage and swell, till it was as big 
round as her body, and a power of doctors came to see him, but they 
could do him no good. So she watched her opportunity, and went 
up stairs one day when she knew he was quite alone, and said hei 
blessing over his arm, "and he was soon quite hearty again." " And 
since he has been a man grown," she exclaimed in a tone of exulta- 
tion, M hasn't he been to see me, and didn't he say, you are the best 
friend I ever had, for I should not be here now but for your viper 
blessing?" (112) A farmer too, she went on to tell me, had come 
from a distance to beg her to save the life of a valuable cow that was 
taken suddenly ill, and she said her blessing for it, and before the 
farmer got home the cow was well again. Such is the value attached 
to these charms by the possessors of them, that an old man who died 
in our parish almshouse taught a poor woman who had waited on him 
during his last illness, in gratitude, and as he believed in full requital 
for her kindness to him, a charm infallible for a burn. 

There are so few of all the ills that flesh is heir to for which some 
wise woman in West Sussex is not furnished with a cure, that one 
might suppose the office of the village doctor had become a sinecure, 
and, lest their traditionary recipes should die with the possessors, I 
have noted down from time to time such as I have heard prescribed. 
For our doctresses are a race that is diminishing, and few of them are 
better acquainted with pen, ink, and paper, than Shakspeare's old 
hermit of Prague, though one at least must be excepted, who, when 
I wanted to obtain from her some of the old word-charms which I knew 
her to be in the habit of using, said to me, " I promised the man who 
taught me them, by all that's good and great, never to tell them to 
any one, but I did not say I would not write them down, and I have 
done so, and they will be found after my death, for 1 should like to 
know I have done some good to my neighbours after I am gone." 

It would perhaps be difficult to produce a more convincing proof of 
the hold that superstition still retains upon the minds of thousands 
than the following catalogue. 



38 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

At the head of my collection I set down in the terms dictated to me 
a few weeks since, by the head nurse in a family, two cures for the 
whooping-cough. (113) " Hang round the neck of the patient a silk 
bag filled with hair cut from the cross on the neck of a donkey ; 
borrow the donkey ; place the patient on its back, with his or her face 
looking towards its tail, and lead it to a certain spot fixed on in your 
own mind, three times running, for three succeeding days/' The 
nurse assured me that this remedy had been tried on herself and her 
brother with eminent success ; and that the hair was sewn up in the 
bags by the wife of the Clergyman, who had also lent the donkey on 
which they took their rides. (114) The second remedy, though of a 
much more simple kind, had worked no end of cures, l: Hang round 
the patient's neck the excrescence often found upon the briar-rose, and 
called here in Sussex by the name of Robin Redbreast's Cushion ; it 
is the finest thing known for the whooping-cough ;" and I recollect a 
growth of this kind of unusual size being given to a little girl who 
had the whooping-cough, as a plaything. On seeing it, the nurse 
exclaimed, u I am glad to see that, I have been hunting for one for 
several days to hang round Miss Mary's neck." 

(115) We have another infallible remedy for whooping-cough in 
whatever may be prescribed by the rider of a piebald horse. A man 
who was the owner of one lived a few years ago at Petworth, and 
never rode out on it without being accosted by some mother of a 
family, and solicited to tell her the best cure for whooping-cough. Some- 
times he would reply " Ale and butter," sometimes ** Honey and 
vinegar," in short, any strange compound that first occurred to him. 
But however strange might be the advice, it was always implicitly 
followed, and, said Mrs. Cooper, my informant, u the result has always 
been the same — the sick children were cured." 

I believe that modern science has failed to discover the medicinal 
properties of vervain, (116) but its dried leaves, "worn in a black silk 
bag," are recommended as a cure for weakly children. A belief in 
the virtues of this insignificant plant is as old as the days of Druidism, 
when it was regarded as the cure for many ills, and as a fit offering to 
their gods. 

For rheumatism, a malady so prevalent amongst the poor, there are 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 39 



many remedies ; but I will only mention a few. One is pre-eminently 
absurd. (117) A clergyman, H — W — , told me a short time since 
that, finding an infirm old woman seated on the very edge of her chair, 
he expressed to her his fear that she would slip off ; but she assured 
him that she was quite safe, and that she was sitting in that way in 
order to make room for the bellows behind her in the chair, as the 
leaning against them was " a fine thing for the rheumatis," not as 
might have been conjectured from the support afforded to her back, 
but because they would, as she believed, so placed charm away the 
malady. 

(118) Another old woman said she couldn't no way understand her 
rheumatis being so uncommon bad, for she had put her shoes in the 
form of a cross every night by the side of her bed, ever since she felt 
the first twinge. 

(119) The right fore-foot of a hare worn constantly in the pocket 
is considered a fine thing for rheumatism, but my old dame Mrs. 
Cooper's infallible remedy for it is, (120) "find an elder stick with 
three, five, or seven knots upon it; carry it in your pocket." 

(121) For ague, the same authority prescribes " eat fasting seven 
sage-leaves seven mornings running." (122) Our coachman's daughter 
was advised to cure her ague by putting a caterpillar into a box and 
carrying it in her pocket, with the assurance that, as the caterpillar 
wasted away, her ague-fits would decrease. We have had several ague 
cases this spring, and one poor girl who had been ill for many weeks, 
on being asked the other morning how she felt, replied, " Better 
already, I thank you ; I have been trying Mrs. Cooper's cure and it 
has done me good. She said it was a very innocent thing, and had 
cured many people that the doctor could do nothing for ; it was only 
(123) to wear a leaf of tansey in my shoes ; or, if I preferred it, I 
might eat two sage -leaves of a morning fasting for nine mornings." 

(124) Sometimes we may observe a silver ring on the wedding-ring 
finger of a single woman ; they are worn for the cure of fits, and are 
made out of six sixpences which have been begged from six young 
bachelors. I know that a young woman in a neighbouring village 
has long worn one of these magic rings, which will ward off all common 
fits, if worn with faith. 



40 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

(125) I have heard that a paw cut off from a live mole is good for 
toothache, and (126) one of my grandchildren who has been suffering 
from that malady has been recommended by her nurse to hunt for a 
double hazel-nut, and to carry it in her pocket, and then she will never 
be troubled again in the same way. From many other remedies for 
the agony I have selected the following, which is copied verbatim et 
literatim from the fly-leaf of a Booh of Common Prayer lately belong- 
ing to a Sussex labourer and now in my possession. 

(127) " As Peter sat weeping on a marvel stone, Christ came by 
and said unto him, Peter, what hailest thou — Peter answered and 
said unto him, My Lord and my God, my tooth eaketh. Jesus said 
unto him, Arise, Peter, and be thou hole ; and not the only but all them 
that carry these lines for my sake, shall never have the tooth ake. 
Joseph Hylands his book." 

The belief is that the possession of a Bible or a Prayer Book with 
this legend written in it is a charm against tooth-ache ! We speak 
with compassion of the African Negro and Kaffir, who carry about 
charms written on slips of paper to avert or cure some bodily 
disease, perhaps little imagining, till accident reveals the painful fact', 
that thousands in our civilized England are practising observances 
more* grossly superstitious, and believing just as firmly in their 
efficacy. 

There cannot, I think, be produced a more convincing proof of this 
sad truth than the following remedy, still in common use both here 
and in many parts of Sussex, for the cure of rupture in children : 
(128) A child so afflicted must be passed nine times every morning 
on nine successive days at sunrise through a cleft in a sapling ash- 
tree, which has been so far given up by the owner of it to the parents 
of the child, as that there is an understanding it shall not be cut 
down during the life of the infant who is to be passed through it. 
The sapling must be sound at heart, and the cleft must be made with 
an axe. The child on being carried to the tree must be attended by 
nine persons, each of whom must pass it through the cleft from west 
to east. On the ninth morning the solemn ceremony is concluded by 
binding the tree lightly with a cord, and it is supposed that as the 
cleft closes the health of the child will improve. In the neighbour- 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 41 

hood of Petworth some cleft ash-trees may be seen, through which 
children have very recently been passed. I may add, that only a few 
weeks since, a person who had lately purchased an ash-tree standing 
in this parish, intending to cut it down, was told by the father of a 
child, who had some time before been passed through it, that the in- 
firmity would be sure to return upon his son if it were felled. Where- 
upon the good man said, he knew that such would be the case ; and 
therefore he would not fell it for the world. 

(129) In the cure of warts, again the ash-tree has its part; persons 
annoyed with those unsightly excrescences, after pricking them with 
a number of pins, stick the pins into an ash-tree, and believe that, as 
they become embedded in the growing bark, the warts will gradually 
disappear. (130) Many, however, instead of this charm, recommend 
the stealing of a small piece of meat and burying it in some road-side 
bank, and then as the meat decays so likewise will the warts; but on 
no account must the spot where the meat is hid be revealed to any 
one, or it will spoil the charm. (131) One old woman tells me that 
she " holds more to the simple peeling of a stick and burying it in 
muck." And, to justify her preference of this last popular superstition, 
it is quite certain that it may be carried back as far as to the time of 
Lord Bacon, who is, perhaps, too hastily asserted to have been a 
believer himself in the efficacy of the cure of warts by sympathy.* 

* In that collection of strange facts worth inquiring into, and of being sub- 
mitted to the test of experience and observation, which Lord Bacon calls his 
Natural History, No. 997, on the subject of what are termed sympathies and an- 
tipathies, it is recorded that " the taking away of warts by rubbing them with 
somewhat that afterwards is put to waste and consume is a common experiment, 
and I do apprehend it the rather because of my own experience. I had from my 
childhood a wart on one of my fingers ; afterwards, when I was about sixteen 
years old, being then at Paris, there grew upon both my hands a number of warts 
— at the least an hundred, in a month's space. The English Ambassador's lady, 
who was a woman far from superstition, told me one day she would help me 
away with my warts: whereupon she got a piece of lard with the skin on, and 
rubbed the warts all over with the fat side; and, amongst the rest; that wart 
which I had had from my childhood : then she nailed the piece of lard, with the 
fat towards the sun, upon a post of her chamber window, which was towards the 
south. The success was, that within five weeks' space all the wai-ts went quite 
away: and that wart whicb I had so long endured for company. But at the rest 
I did little marvel, because they came in a short time and might go away in a 



42 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

(132) But the most singular superstition connected with the ash is 
the once very popular belief, not yet extinct, that the burying a shrew- 
mouse alive, with sundry ceremonies, in a hole bored in it, would 
remedy the supposed evils inflicted by the shrew on man or beast. 
• How so perfectly harmless an animal came to be regarded with as 
much horror as the most venomous of reptiles I never heard explained. 
But the antipathy to it has been bequeathed to us, and to this day 
the country people in West Sussex speak of it as a thing of evil 
omen; they believe (133) that it cannot attempt to pass a foot-path, 
or high road, without dying ; and (134) talk of the injury it does to 
cattle, by creeping over them when they are asleep. (135) Within 
the memory of those living, the leaves or twigs of the li shrew-ash " 
have been employed to cure the injured cattle. I heard, but a few 
days ago, of a farmer, who found a valuable horse that had been turned 
over night into a meadow quite lame in the morning, uttering curses 
deep against those horrid " pick-nosed mice " (the name by which the 
shrew-mouse is known in Western Sussex), for having caused all the 
mischief to the injured limb. " Don't turn those cows into that 
meadow," said another farmer lately to a new servant, u or some harm 
will come to them, for the field's full of those picked-nosed mice." 
Traditional tales are told of the shrew-mouse tree in many parts of 
England; and, when the well-meaning vicar of Selborne (as White 
tells us, vol. i. pp. 355, 356), against the strong remonstrances of the 
by-standers, destroyed one that had long stood close to the parsonage, 
he vainly flattered himself that by rooting up the tree he should root 
out of the minds of his parishioners the superstitious belief in its 
virtues. 

But the ash is not the only plant of power against the shrew. 
Drayton tells us that a bramble, "which at both ends was rooted 
deep," was in magic much availing; (136) through such a bramble 



short time again : but the going away of that which had stayed so long doth yet 
stick with me. They say the like is done by the rubbing of warts with a green 
alder stick, and then burying the stick to rot in mnck." Lord Bacon does not 
however say that either of these two extraordinary facts had been established on 
sufficient evidence, but that they were worth inquiring into by further observa- 
tion as strange and questionable instances of asserted sympathy. 






WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 43 



cattle are still drawn, to cure them of the ills brought on them by the 
creeping of the shrew-mouse over them; and I am told (137) that 
children disfigured by eruptions are cured by passing them nine times 
through, on nine successive mornings, at the rising of the sun. 

Further virtues are superstitiously ascribed to the ash, the tree of 
which Spenser speaks as being "for nothing ill." It is, however, 
singular, that the same superstition which looks upon the ash as 
possessing such supernatural powers of healing, regards it (138) as an 
especial attraction of lightning, to be avoided in a thunder-storm j and 
mothers teach their children to say — 

" Beware of an oak, 
It draws the stroke ; 
Avoid an ash, 
It courts the flash ; 
Creep under the thorn, 
It can save you from harm." 

(139) Another tree, the maple, although " seldom inward sound " 
itself, is supposed to be capable of bestowing long life on children 
who have passed through its branches. One of these length-of-days- 
bestowing maples had been long resorted to in West Grinstead Park ; 
and when a rumour spread through the parish, a few years ago, that 
it was about to be cut down, humble petitions were presented that it 
might be spared. 

But we must return to our mysterious pharmacy. (140) For the 
benefit of persons blessed with a good digestion, there is the recipe of 
our old village clerk for hydrophobia, " a slice of the liver of the dog 
that bit yon, to be boiled and eaten." 

(141) An approved remedy for wounds inflicted with a sharp 
instrument (akin to wise Sir Kenelm Digby's sympathetic cure by the 
anointing of the weapon that made the wound)* is to keep it polished 
and bright until the injured part is healed. Several instances of the 
trial of this old superstitious remedy have come under my observation ; 
but the most remarkable one occurred in the house of an acquaintance, 
one of whose men had fallen down upon a sword-stick and inflicted a 
serious wound on his back, which confined him to his bed for several 

* See also Bacon's Natural History, No. 998. 



44 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

days. During the whole of this time the sword-stick was hung up at 
his bed's head, and polished night and day at stated intervals by a 
female hand, and was anxiously examined lest a single spot of rust 
should be found there, as that would have been a token that tho 
wounded man would die. 

(142) Though I have no charm to cure headache on my list, agree- 
ing with the old proverb that to prevent it is still better, I shall state 
a sure way of avoiding it in the spring. No hair either cut or combed 
from your head must be allowed to be thrown carelessly away, lest 
some bird should find it and carry it off, in which case your head 
would ache during all the time that the bird was busy working the 
spoil into its nest. " I knew how it would be," exclaimed a servant 
to me one day, " when I saw that bird fly off with a bit of my hair in 
its beak that blew out of the window this morning when I was dress- 
ing ; I knew I should have a clapping headache, and so I have." 
(143) The same young woman remonstrated strongly against the 
throwing away of the cast teeth of children, affirming that, should 
they be found, and gnawed by any animal, the child's new tooth would 
be, for all the world, like the animal's that had bitten the old one. 
In proof of her assertion she named old Master Simmons, who had a 
very large pig's tooth in his upper jaw, a personal blemish that ho 
always had averred was caused by his mother's having thrown one of 
his cast teeth away by accident in the hog-trough. 

(144) If babies fret and do not appear to thrive, it is supposed that 
they are M longing." " Baby," said a nurse to me, u is so uncommon 
fretty, I do believe he must be longing for something." And to the 
question, What could he be longing for ? the reply was, " Something 
that his mother longed for, but did not get, before he was born, and 
the best way to satisfy him would be, I think, to try him with a brandy 
cherry, or some hare's brains." (145) Or Baptism is looked forward 
to as a cure for fretfulness ; and I have known a young mother to say 
of her baby, " Poor thing, it is very fretty, but I think it will be all 
right again after it is christened." 

(14G) A necklace made of beads turned from the root of the peony 
is worn by children to prevent convulsions, and to aid dentition. 

(147) The old traditionary word-charm for the hiccough, perhaps, 
hardly ought to be inserted in a list of superstitions, for most of us 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 45 

have ourselves proved its efficacy in our younger days. Bat the pecu- 
liarity of its application by my nurse, with whom it was a great 
favourite, was her requiring it to be said " thrice in one breath, or else 
the charm would fail : " 

" Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper, 
A peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked, &c, &c." 

(148) The application of a dock-leaf, with a certain form of words 
addressed to it, is supposed to cure nettle-stings. 

(149) Another popular belief common to all classes is, that the 
humour on the eyelid called a " sty " can be cured by rubbing it three 
times with a plain gold ring ; an operation I have frequently sub- 
mitted to in my youth. The beneficial effect of gold upon a sty is 
alluded to by Beaumont and Fletcher in The Mad Lover, Act v. 

(150) For the weakness of my eyes I have been assured that the 
best application would be the water that is found in the hollow cup of 
the teasel: and (151) a superstition lingering amongst us, worthy of 
the days of paganism, is, that the new May moon, aided by certain 
charms, has the power of curing scrofulous complaints. A man living 
in the neighbourhood of Chichester, whose children and grandchildren 
are much afflicted, has twice taken a journey of upwards of a hundred 
miles, with different members of his family, to visit a cunning man in 
Dorsetshire, who professes to be in possession of the charms. The 
month of May is the only month when they will work, and the sufferers, 
to derive any benefit therefrom, must have their eyes fixed on the new 
moon at the time when they are presented with a box of ointment 
made from herbs gathered when the moon was full. The poor man 
said that on his last visit to get a grandchild cured he found upwards 
of two hundred persons waiting to be charmed, and, as the new moon 
was not expected to rise before two o'clock, they sat up all night for 
fear of missing the right moment for looking at her. (152) Another 
sufferer at North Chapel was recommended to wear a live toad round 
his neck till it was dead ; he has done so, and declares he feels the 
better for the inhuman remedy. 

(153) For bad cases of jaundice many an old doctoress still pre- 
scribes " a live spider rolled up in butter." 



46 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

(154) Some of the sacramental wine that may remain unconsumed 
after consecration is regarded as a cure for debility in infancy and in 
extreme old age. A request came to me a short time since from a 
farmer's wife to endeavour to procure a little for her. The mes- 
senger, who was one of her daughters, said, " Mother thinks, as she 
has tried everything else that she can hear of, and it has done the 
baby no good, that a little of the sacramental wine might save it." 
Wisely has it been ordered, for the prevention of all such abuses, that 
no part of the consecrated elements shall ever be reserved after the 
Communion is ended, or ever carried out of the church. It is by no 
means an uncommon thing, amongst the poorer classes, to receive the 
Holy Communion, when they feel very ill, from a belief they entertain 
that relief may be afforded to their bodily ailments by partaking of 
it ; or even, as it would seem, by the good intention of so doing. A 
remarkable instance of this came under my observation. An old 
woman, in reply to an inquiry as to her health, said, " I think I am 
a deal better than when I last saw you. On Sunday there was a 
Sacrament ; and says I to my next-door neighbour, l As we are both 
going to have a cold dinner to-day, what do you say to our going to 
church, and staying the Sacrament?' and she said she was agree- 
able, but somehow we dawdled about till it was too late. But ever 
since I thought of going to the Sacrament I have not found near so 
much of the pain in my stomach." 

(155) Persons who have been confirmed in their youth sometimes 
again present themselves for Confirmation in their old age, because 
they think the Bishop's blessing will cure them of some bodily ailment. 
I have heard of an old woman who was confirmed several times, 
because she thought it was good for her rheumatism, and a feeling of 
the same kind prevails when a poor woman tells you, (156) " I feel 
very weak and teary after my confinement, but I dare say I shall 
get up my strength after I have been churched." I have already 
mentioned the belief that fretfulness in infants will be cured by 
baptism.* 

(157) The following strange superstition also has in it a religious 

* See (145). 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 47 

element. I knew a mother who refused the medicine offered to her 
for her child ill of the ague, because she had no faith in anything but 
passing it three times under the belly of an ass. Being pressed to 
give a reason for her faith, after some hesitation she replied, " Why, 
it is something about our Saviour's riding on an ass into Jerusalem ; 
and about the cross that wasn't on the ass's back before, and has been 
there ever since that time." 

(158) One day I called upon the village doctoress, who is possessed 
of so many wondrous receipts, when, our conversation turning on the 
ailment called the thrush, she struck her knees emphatically with both 
hands, and said, " I know the simplest remedy for that complaint, but 
people are so stupid. I often cannot get them to try it, and yet I 
have cured many by it in my time. When we were living under the 
hill, Master Hawkins came to me one day, and, says he, * My baby is 
uncommon bad with its mouth.' ' It has got the thrush,' says I, 
1 and I'll just step back with you to tell your wife what she must do.' 
Well, when I saw the child, I thought this is as bad a case of thrush 
as ever I set eyes on. So says I to the child's mother, * Do you know 
of a left twin girl anywhere here about ?' She thought a minute, and 
then said, ' Yes, my cousin Eliza at the shop is a left twin.' * Good,' 
says I, l take the boy down to her, and ask her to blow into his mouth, 
and then to stop a minute ; then to blow again, and stop a minute ; 
and then blow for the third time, and the child will have no remains 
of the thrush to-morrow.' So, when she took it down, old Uncle 
Collins said, he did not see how any good could come of such a thing ; 
but when he heard that I had ordered it he bade his daughter blow 
away, and so she did, and wasn't that poor suffering baby cured !" I 
asked her what was meant by a left twin, and what effect the blowing 
possibly could have upon such a complaint? She replied, the child 
that has outlived its fellow-twin is always called a left twin, and in 
such cases it's faith that works the cure. She could tell me, she said, 
of many that had been so cured, and mentioned a young woman, " wife 
of the man who keeps the inn upon the heath, who had the black 
thrush so bad that she could neither eat nor drink, but a young man, 
who was a left twin, came and blew in her mouth three times, and the 
thrush left her. " You see," she added, " it must be one of the male 



48 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

sex that blows into the mouth of a woman, and a female into that of 
a man." 

(159) A revolting remedy is still resorted to for the cure of wens or 
goitre in the throat — passing the hand of a corpse several times over 
the swollen part. The hand of a defunct felon was formerly regarded 
as most efficacious in such a case. 

Some five-and-thirty years ago there stood a gibbet within sight of 
the high road that wound up Beeding Hill, our nearest way to Brighton. 
Standing on the wide desolate down, with all its fearful associations, 
it was an object of great terror to me in my youthful days ; and the 
dread of seeing it and hearing my nurse repeat her oft-told tale of the 
murderer who had been hung on it in chains, and how he had been 
seen swinging on a windy night and heard rattling his irons, made 
the prospect of a visit to the sea-side, which involved the sight of the 
gallows anything but pleasurable. Amongst my nurse's fearful 
stories there was one relating (160) to the curing of a wen by the 
touch of the dead murderer's hand. She actually knew some one who 
knew the woman who had been touched with it ; and she described 
most graphically the whole frightful scene, how the woman was taken 
under the gallows in a cart and was held up in order that she might 
touch the dead hand, and how she passed it three times over the wen 
and then returned homeward. This superstitious practice happily 
expired with the abolition of the gibbet ; but the remedy of the dead 
hand is still sometimes resorted to. Not very long ago, in the neigh- 
bouring village of Storrington, a young woman afflicted with a goitre 
was taken by her friends to the side of an open coffin in order that 
the hand of the corpse might touch it twice. Mrs. Charles Standcn of 
this place, who has for some years had an enlarged throat, on hearing 
that a boy was drowned in Waltham Lock, set off immediately ;m.l 
had the part affected stroked with the dead hand nine times from east 
to west, and the same number of times from west to east. 

(161) The belief that a sick person who grows thin in spite of a 
ravenous appetite has a snake or (as it is called) a nanny-wiper in the 
stomach, lingers still amongst us ; and I very lately heard the illness 
of a poor woman who has been out of health for the last two years 
ascribed to this cause by her next-door neighbour. She said that the 




WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 4 ( J 

woman was always hungry, but that nothing she ate or drank did her 
a bit of good, for the nanny-wiper took it all. The snake is supposed 
to be very fond of milk, and I was gravely told that a cousin of hen 
who was tormented by one held some milk for a time in her mouth, 
and at last the snake u came quite up in her throat after it," and that 
the only way was, to set some warm milk on a table in a saucer, and, 
pretending to go to sleep, to sit with your mouth wide open, and, 
when the nanny-wiper came out to drink, for somebody to knock it on 
the head. 

(162) I have been told that nine mice roasted to a cinder, then 
powdered till they are as fine as dust, and swallowed fasting in a glass 
of ale, are a fine thing for some particular cases of debility. My in- 
formant had however tried it on her own son, and she confessed that 
it had failed. 

I have a note of two other superstitions of the remediate class which 
I have hesitated to put on my list ; but, after all, I think they are too 
curious to be left unrecorded. When a poor child has in vain been 
whipped and scolded for the nightly repetition of a certain involuntary 
offence, in the last resort one of the two following remedies may be 
tried: (163) Upon the day appointed for the funeral of a person not 
of the same sex as the child, while the first part of the burial office 
is being read within the church, the child is to be taken to the open 
grave and is there to do that which constituted the original offence. 
My informant told me that, although she had taken her own little boy 
to the churchyard, he had not had the courage to carry out this first 
remedy, and so she tried the second with complete success. (164) It 
consists in the child's first going alone to fix upon an ash-tree suitable 
for the purposes of the charm, and going afterwards upon another day, 
without divulging its intention, to gather a handful of the ash-keys, 
which it must lay with the left hand in the hollow of the right arm. 
Thus are they to be carried home and then they are to be burnt to 
ashes. The charm is completed by the child performing the same 
ceremony over the embers on the hearth, which in the former remedy 
it was to go through at the open grave. 

(165) I conclude this chapter by mentioning a preventive of the 
plague of fleas, though there may be some difficulty in its application, 

E 



50 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

as there is unfortunately a material variation between my two autho- 
rities on a most essential point. " If you wish to keep fleas out of 
your house," says Elizabeth Hinds, my daughter's nurse, " you must 
be up before the sun on the 1st of March, and, throwing open a win- 
dow, say, l Good morning, March.' " But Mrs. Webb, the monthly 
nurse, says on the contrary, " If from fleas you would be free, on the 
1st of March let. all your windows closed be." She added, however, 
that she had tried it, but it had not altogether answered — a few 
crept in. 




WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 51 




CHAPTER VI. 

PROGNOSTICS OF DEATH — SICK-ROOM AND DEATH-BED 
SUPERSTITIONS. 

ROM this long detail of the extraordinary remedies to 
which we trust in Western Sussex for curing almost all 
diseases that our flesh is heir to, we may pass, not 
inappropriately, to the prognostics of approaching death 
and other ghostly presages. 

Death-tokens are very numerous. (166) An unusual rattling of 
the church-door portends that before the end of the week it will be 
open to receive a corpse. (167) Another early burial is foretold from 
the heavy sound of the funeral bell. When I observed one morning 
to a servant that we were to have another funeral this week, " I am 
not surprised to hear it," was her reply ; " I told Jane, the day of 
old Master Smith's burial, that I knew from the sound of the bell that 
we should have another pretty soon." 

(168) To break a looking-glass is accounted the greatest of all 
mishaps, because it portends the death of some near and dear friend. 

(169) If a corpse does not stiffen soon after death, it is regarded as 
a token that another member of the family will soon die. A woman 
who was speaking of the great mortality which had occurred in a 
neighbouring family, where she had lived many years as servant, told 
me of this curious superstition. She said, " The day after my 
master's death, one of his sisters-in-law came into the room and asked 
the nurse if she had ever heard that a limp corpse was a bad sign ; 
and nurse made answer, * La, miss ! it's nothing but an old woman's 
saying.' But she winked at me ; and when miss was gone she said, 
'• I didn't like to tell her the truth ; but master's corpse not stiffening 
is a sure sign that death will be knocking pretty soon again at' the 
door of this house for some other of the family ;' and Miss Susan did 
not live many years after that herself." 

e 2 



52 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

(170) One is told in Sussex, that when death has entered a house 
he will not leave it without carrying off three of the inmates. 

(171) Instances are by no means uncommon even of well-educated 
persons disliking to meet a funeral, from the general belief that, if 
you do so, your own will soon blacken the way. A good old gentle- 
man of my acquaintance has been often known, whether on horseback 
or on foot, to turn round and go home again, however urgent his 
business might be, rather than meet one. (172) He also had a 
perfect faith that the thrice-repeated caws of a carrion crow are a 
token of death ; and one day astonished all his family by announcing 
to them that they had lost a near relation. On their asking him how 
he had become acquainted with the fact, he said a carrion crow had 
just told him so, by flying over his head and uttering three dismal 
caws. 

(173) The old gentleman just mentioned strictly forbade green 
brooms being used in his house during the month of May, and, as a 
reason for the prohibition, used to quote the adage— 

" If you sweep the house with broom in May, 
You'll sweep the head of that house away ; " 

and this superstitious association between broom and death in the 
month of May is extended to its blossom. (174) A poor girl, who 
was lingering in the last stage of consumption, but whose countenance 
had always lighted up with pleasure at the sight of flowers, appeared 
one morning so exceedingly restless and unhappy, after a fresh nose- 
gay of gay spring flowers had been laid upon her bed, that I asked 
her if the scent of them was disagreeable to her. " Oh ! no," she ex- 
claimed, " they are very nice indeed to smell ; but yet I should be 
very glad if you would throw away that piece of yellow broom ; for 
they do say that death comes with it if it is brought into the house in 
blossom during the month of May." Nor is the broom the only flower 
that is regarded as a death-token. The snowdrop, that " fair maid 
of February," and the primrose, Fletcher's " firstborn child of Ver," 
are equally dreaded, if one only is brought into the house when they 
first appear. (175) Hearing a child violently scolded for bringing into 
the house a single snowdrop, which the mother called a death-token, I 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS.. 53 

asked why she gave this pretty flower so bad a name, and was 
informed that " it looked for all the world like a corpse in its shroud, 
and that it always kept itself quite close to the earth, seeming to 
belong more to the dead than to the living." Why she believed that 
a single one brought death with it, whilst she regarded any larger 
number of them as harmless, she did not explain. (176) From the 
same woman I learned that the primrose was looked upon with such 
dread, because it used to be much sought after to strew on graves, and 
to dress up corpses in the coffin. Pity that so beautiful a custom should 
have been made the ground of such a superstitious presage ! The same 
fear attaches to the black- and to the white-thorn blossoms. (177) A 
clergyman's wife* has told me that on lately visiting a woman in her 
parish she carried with her a piece of blackthorn in blossom, but she 
had hardly spoken before the woman snatched it from her hand and 
threw it out of the door, exclaiming, " How could you think, ma'am, of 
bringing that death-token into my house ?" This strange superstition 
is supposed to be mysteriously associated with the apparent com- 
mingling of life and death, which the blackthorn presents in early 
spring, when it is clothed with its white flowers, but destitute of leaves. 
(178) A much dreaded death-token in a West Sussex village where 
I once resided was that remarkable appearance known by the names 
of ignis fatuus, " Will o' the wisp," and " Jack o' lantern," which 
might be often seen in that neighbourhood, flitting from place to place 
over a large extent of marshy ground. The direction of its rapid 
undulating movement was always carefully observed, not from any 
curious admiration of the phenomenon, but from an anxiety to ascertain 
where it would disappear, as it was believed to be — 

" The hateful messenger of heavy things, 
Of death and dolour telling," 

to the inhabitants of the house nearest to that spot. Considerable 
alarm was once created in that same village by a pale light being 
observed to move over the bed of a sick person, and, after flickering 
for some time in different parts of the room, to vanish through the 
window. Of course so mysterious a manifestation was pronounced to 

* Mrs. Ayling, of Tillington. 



54 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

be a warning, and the nurse avowed moreover that she had seen such 
light some scores of times, but out of doors, and she believed a death 
had always followed. It happened, however, that I was myself enabled 
accidentally to clear up the mystery. For not long after, as I was 
sitting up in my own room reading after midnight, all at once some- 
thing fell upon the open page and appeared to have ignited it. I 
started in a momentary alarm, but soon perceived that the light pro- 
ceeded from a luminous insect, which proved to be the male glow- 
worm. 

(179) There was a belief common enough in the weald a few years 
ago, closely resembling the French* superstition of the Fetiches^ 
animals of a dazzling whiteness, which appear only in the night-time, 
and vanish as soon as any one attempts to touch them. A blacksmith's 
wife at Ashington, the daughter of a small farmer, was found one 
morning much depressed in mind, and on being questioned as to the 
cause of it, said, with a heavy sigh, " I shall hear bad news before the 
day is over ; for late last night, as I was sitting up waiting for my 
husband, who had gone to Horsham, what should I see, on looking 
out of the window, lying close under it, but a thing like a duck, yet a 
great deal whiter than it ought to have been, whiter than any snow. 
I was all of a tremble and cried out quite loud, and off went the thing, 
faster than I ever saw anything run before." We suggested that it 
might have been a neighbour's cat, and that it looked whiter than 
usual in consequence of the moonlight falling upon it. " Oh, dear 
no!" she said, "it was no cat, nor anything alive;" those white things 
were sent as warnings ; she should hear of a death before night. 
And, though no sad news came, she remained firmly convinced that a 
warning of some kind had been supernaturally sent to her. 

(180) That the screech-owl should be regarded as a messenger of 
evil by the ignorant can excite no surprise in any one who is ac- 
quainted with its unearthly note. I was walking rather late one 
summer's evening close by the village church, when a strange, start- 
ling sound seemed suddenly to come from the low belfry, and continued 
so long that the inhabitants of the neighbouring cottages ran to the 

* Sec Pluquet's Contes Popuhilns. 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 55 

spot, to sec what had occasioned it. At length an owl was seen sit- 
ting solemnly on the roof-ridge of the church. Satisfied with this 
discovery of the cause of the excitement, I was walking off, when 
some women stopped me to express their fears lest we should soon 
hear of a death in the parish. This, as we might expect, is one 
amongst the oldest and most universal of all superstitions. " The 
scritch owl, scritching loud," put our poor villagers, as it may have 
put their forefathers in Shakspeare's time {Mich. N. D. v. 2), u in re- 
membrance of a shroud," destined for themselves or some near neigh- 
bour. It is still "the fatal bellman that gives the stern'st good 
night." (Macbeth, ii. 2.) We know that it was in ill favour with tho 
ancients as being a bird of evil omen, and the traditionary dislike to it 
is expressed in the old legend glanced at by poor Ophelia {Ham. iv. 5), 
that the owl was a baker's daughter, turned into an owl by our Lord 
for refusing to give him bread. (181) Nor is it surprising that the 
dark, forbidding looking raven, with its hoarse, sepulchral note, and 
stealthy way of dogging the steps of man, should be accounted an ill- 
omened bird ; to say nothing of the very old belief in its prophetic 
powers, which certainly was held by our own Saxon forefathers. For 
Odin had two ravens, which he let loose every morning to collect 
intelligence of what was going on in the world, and at night on their 
return they lighted on his shoulders and unfolded to him the news 
that they had gathered. I have not met with any instance in my own 
immediate neighbourhood of the raven actually coming u o'er the 
infected house, boding to all ;" or of the belief, that to it is given — 
" The wond'rous power to know, 

While health fills high the throbbing veins, 

The fated hour when blood must flow ;" 

for it is by no means a common bird in Sussex, though one or two 
may generally be seen in the neighbourhood of the sea-shore. But it 
is not long since I heard of one exciting quite as great a horror in the 
heart of an old woman in the neighbourhood of Chichester as did that 
celebrated one, in the heart of the " Old woman of Berkeley : " 
" The Raven croak'd as she sat at her meal, 
And the old woman knew what she said, 
And she grew pale at the Raven's tale, 
And sicken'd, and went to bed ;" 



56 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

and there in bed our old woman of Sussex remained for several days, 
expecting every one would be her last, although she had up to the 
time of the raven's croak been in her usual state of health. 

(182) I have met with even educated persons, as well as those 
whom the schoolmaster has not reached, who, if a hare were the first 
animal that crossed their path upon their leaving home, would turn 
back, regarding it as a warning, that, if they went any further on 
their way, death, or some dire mishap, would certainly befall them. 
Perhaps the old belief may still be lingering amongst us of a witch 
taking the form of a hare, either for the sake of the exercise of run- 
ning before the hounds, or of the malicious gratification of disappoint- 
ing the hunt. 

(183) " A sound, for all the world like a chirping of chickens," some 
old nurses tell you, has been sometimes heard in the chamber of death, 
just before the spirit left the body. 

(184) The dog too, like the raven, is believed to possess the faculty 
of anticipating death ; and there are instances without number of the 
alarm caused by a long-continued howling, at the dead of night, of 
some dog, who was perhaps baying at the moon, or might have lost 
his master, from the conviction that it was a sure foretoken of the 
death of some one of the household. This belief is by no means con- 
fined to the uneducated; and I well remember the consternation 
amongst high and low at Worthing a few years ago, caused by a New- 
foundland dog, the property of a clergyman in the neighbourhood, 
lying down on the steps of a house in Warwick Street, piteously, and 
refusing to be driven away ; it being made known that, soon after 
the howling commenced, a young lady, long an invalid, but who, it 
was believed, might still have lingered on for some weeks, had died 
there. This fact caused so much excitement, that the story reached 
the owner of the dog, who came to Worthing to inquire into the truth, 
when it turned out, much to the disgust of all lovers of the marvellous, 
that the dog had accidentally been separated from his master late in 
the evening, and had been seen running here and there in search of 
him, and howling at the door of the stable where he put up his horse, 
and other places which he often visited in Worthing. His master had 
called frequently at the house in Warwick Street, and the poor dog 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 57 

went there ; but it was ascertained that he had passed from it to tho 
door of the reading-room in the same street, and it was there that he 
had howled so long and loud, to the dismay of numbers who averred 
next morning that the melancholy sound came from the steps of tho 
house where the young lady died. 

(185) An omen of death quite new to me has been lately added to 
my collection by our cook, who, on being questioned as to the state of 
the kitchen fire, when an envelope containing some bank notes had in- 
advertently been thrown into it, exclaimed, " Oh, dear me ! it was indeed 
the blackest fire I ever saw ; and, though I am not superstitious, I 
did not like its looks ; and I said then, ' We have had two sudden 
deaths close to us, and if I do not make that horrid, black-looking fire 
blaze up, see if we don't soon hear of another death, or else some 
terrible misfortune.' So I gave it a good poke ; and, when it still 
looked just as black as it had done before, I put a lot of lucifer 
matches into it, but still it would not burn up ; and then we all got 
frightened, and thought it a very bad sign indeed. And so it has 
proved to be, for all that money has been burnt, and who can say but 
a death may follow pretty soon?'' (186) Another superstition drawn 
from the state of the fire is, that its sudden blazing up is a sign of 
some stranger being near. 

(187) The tapping of the beetle, known by the ominous name of 
the death-watch, is here, as elsewhere, deemed a warning that death 
is near at hand. How often has the sound made me start and tremble 
in my childhood when heard at night, in consequence of my having 
had this belief instilled into me by my nurse. 

(188) A superstitious custom, in which the inhabitants of our 
country villages and towns have faith, believing that its omission is a 
death-omen, is, that the front door of a house through which a corpse 
is carried out must be kept wide open till the burial service is con- 
cluded, or else another death will follow very soon. A short time 
ago a death occurred in the St. Mary's Almshouses at Chichester ; 
and on the morning of the funeral, as soon as the body had been 
carried out, the niece of the deceased locked the door of the apart- 
ment, and had hardly done so when she heard the inmates of the Alms- 
houses thumping and rattling it to force it open. On finding all 



58 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

their efforts useless, one of them exclaimed, " Hang that good-for- 
nothing woman ! her locking this door before the old girl is buried 
will bring death among us pretty soon again." 

(189) I was told lately by a medical gentleman * in an adjoining 
parish of another strange death-token, a firm belief in which had pro- 
bably caused the death of the patient, whose husband related it to 
him. The woman, one day when she was near her confinement, 
perceived a swarm of bees settled on a dead hedge -stake, and turning 
to her husband said, " That is a token of death, and it is sent to me." 
From that hour she declared that she should die in her confinement j 
and her husband and the nurse, much to the surprise of the doctor, 
were evidently of the same opinion. At the end of a week or ten days 
the poor woman actually died. When the doctor called, the husband 
said he knew some time ago how it was to end, and on being asked 
what he meant, replied that they had had a token more than three weeks 
ago, when the bees swarmed on a dead hedge-stake. Gay mentions 
this amongst his rustic omens : 

" Swarmed on a rotten stick the bees I spied, 
Which last I saw when Goody Dobson died." 

(Ihe Shepherd's Week, part v. lines 103, 109.) 

(190) To dream that a tree is uprooted in your garden is regarded 
as a death-warning to the owner. This is a widely-spread superstition, 
and has been practically commemorated, amongst others, by Mrs. 
Hemans, in The Vassal's Lament for the Fallen Tree : 

" Yes ! I have seen the ancient oak 
On the dark deep water cast." f 

(191) Upon the death of an old woman lately in our parish, a 
farmer's wife observed to me that sho knew three days before that the 
poor woman's end was near at hand, and on my asking how, — " Oh ! " 

* Mr. Martin of Fulborough. 

f Mrs. Hemans takes as a text for her poem a passage from Camden's Britannia, 
" Here (at Brcrcton, in Cheshiro) is one thing incredibly Itrange, tat attested, as 
I myself have heard, by many persons and commonly believed. Before any heir 
of tho family dies, there arc seen, in a lake adjoining, the bodies of trees 
swimming ou the water for several days." 




WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 59 

she said, " by her longing so for cider." I replied that she was very 
feverish, and had a constant thirst, which probably was the canse of 
her wishing for cider. " No," was the reply, " I do not think that 
had anything to do with it ; for it is considered a sure sign of death 
when such people long for it." And she then went on to cite half a 
dozen instances, that had fallen under her own observation, of death 
following soon after a sick person had longed for cider. 

From these specimens of our prognostics of death we may proceed to 
some other popular superstitions connected with the chamber of sick- 
ness and death. And in connection with lore just recorded may bo 
mentioned the extraordinary belief (192) that if bees are not immedi- 
ately informed of the death of the head of the family, some terrible 
misfortune will ensue. In western Sussex the bad news of their 
master's death is announced to them by some member of the family 
tapping with the key of the house-door against the side of every hive, 
saying at the same time that So-and-so is dead. In some places a 
piece of black crape is tied upon each hive. 

Mrs. Briggs, my daughter's monthly nurse at Westdean, told me 
that when she was first in service she lived at a house where the son 
died ; and that the mother in the midst of her grief turned to a servant 
and said, " Let the bees be told, or some fresh trouble will happen," 
and that she (Mrs. B.) was sent out into the garden for the purpose. 
She added, she knew many instances of some one being sent to inform 
the bees when a death had occurred in the family. 

(193) If the feathers of game-birds, or of pigeons, are mixed up 
with the other feathers of the bed on which a dying person lies, they 
are supposed to prolong the death-struggle. I once heard a sick- 
nurse tell, with much self-satisfaction, how the poor person whom she 
attended wanted to die but could not, till she guessed how it was, and 
fetched away the bolster and the feather-bed, and then he went off 
easy. These nurses by profession are a strange race ; and I believe 
there is no exaggeration in the following story : — The wife of the 
clergyman of an adjoining parish was told by one of them that never 
did she see any one die so hard as old Master Short ; and at last she 
thought (though his daughter said there were none) that there must be 



60 WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 

game-feathers in the bed, and she tried to pull it from under him ; 
but he was a heavy man and she could not manage it alone, and there 
was no one with him but herself ; and so she got a rope and tied it 
round him, and pulled him by it off the bed ; and " he went off in a 
minute quite comfortable, just like a lamb." 

(194) Doors and windows are frequently thrown wide open in the 
chamber of death, in order that the spirit may have a freer passage 
when it leaves the body. Drawers, too, are unlocked and opened, 
but wherefore has not been satisfactorily explained to me ; and I re- 
member once, when I was present in the sick room of a dying friend, 
being asked by the attendant nurse for the keys of a wardrobe, and 
when I had given them to her, under the impression that she wanted 
to take something out of it, I was surprised to see her merely throw 
back the doors and open all its numerous drawers. She then came 
close to me and said, that, as the poor gentleman's death struggles did 
not cease after she had left a passage for the spirit to go out by open- 
ing the door and window, she thought it might be the cabinets being 
locked that hindered it. 

(195) The belief is very common that a mother's longing to keep 
her dying child on earth lengthens its last struggles, and that violent 
grieving for the dead will prevent their resting in their graves in 
peace. There is a song very popular in some parts of Sussex, and 
probably the production of some village poet, called The Unquiet 
Grave, which turns on this belief. I wrote down the song from the 
lips of a girl who repeated it to me, and, as it has not appeared in print, 
to my knowledge, it would be well to record it here : 

THE UNQUIET GRAVE, A SUSSEX SONG. 

" The wind doth blow to-day, my love, 
And a few small drops of rain ; 
I never had but one true love 
In cold grave she was lain. 

I'll do as much for my true love 

As any young man may, 
I'll sit and mourn all at her grave 

For a twelvemonth, and a day." 



WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 61 

The twelvemonth and a day being up 
The dead began to speak, 
" Oh ! who sits weeping on my grave 
And will not let me sleep ? " 

" 'Tis I, my love, sits on your grave 
And will not let you sleep, 
For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips 
And that is all I seek." 

" You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips, 
But my breath smells earthy strong ; 
If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips 
Your time will not be long: 

'Tis down in yonder garden green, 

Love, where we used to walk, 
The finest flower that ere was seen 

Is withered to a stalk. 

The stalk is withered dry, my love, 

So will our hearts decay ; 
So make yourself content, my love, 

Till God calls you away." 

And here my notes may end. The children inherit and honour 
the errors of their fathers. False doctrines undisputed come to be 
thought indisputable. They are in possession of the minds of the many, 
and possession is held to be so good a title that the popular supersti- 
tions of the present generations are likely, to a large extent, to keep 
their hold upon the next — and, mayhap, upon the next and next. 



63 



INDEX. 



A. 



Abgarus, Epistle to, 24 (86) 

Adam and Eve, tradition respecting, 13 

(52) 
Adder, deaf, 15 (63) 
Ague cures, 39 (121-3), 46, 47 (157) 
Alarm caused by glow-worm, 53, 54 (178) 
Animals, apparitions of, 17 {6Q), 20 (77), 

23 (80), 54 (179) 

magpie perching upon, 9 (19) 

Apple charm, 31 (96) 

tree " worsling," 13 (56) 

Ash-key charm, 49 (164) 

sapling, use of, 40 (128) 

Shrew-, 42 (132, 135) 

tree attracts lightning, 43 (138) 

. stuck with pins, 41 (129) 

Ass' cross, 38 (113), 47 (157) 



B. 



Baby and kitten, 18 (71) 

breath of, sucked by cats, 25 (88) 

— — ■■ caps, when left off, 8 (7) 

carried upstairs before down, 11 

(36) 

fretfulness of, cured by Baptism, 

44 (145) 

longing of, 44 (144) 

. name of, not to be divulged before 

Baptism, 11 (37) 

should cry at font, 11 (39) 

Back, clothes mended on, 12 (46) 
Bacon on warts, 41 (131 and note) 
Baptism, a cure for fretfulness, 44 (145) 
Baths, fairies', 27 (90) 
Beads of peony root, 44 (146) 
Beasts on S. John's Eve, 17 (65) 
Bed-making, Sunday, 11 (32) 
Bees, nest of in roof, 33 (106) 

strange swarm of, 9 (14) 

swarm of, in hedge, 9 (14) 

on dead hedge-stake, 58 

(189) 
told of master's death, 59 (192) 



Beetle, death-watch, 57 (187) 
Bell, funeral, 51 (167) 
Bellows for rheumatism, 39 (117) 
Bible and key, 31 (99) 
Birds' eggs, 10 (22) 
Blackberry superstition, 14 (60) 
Black fire, a, 57 (185) 

" man," 19 (75) 

sheep, 8 (3), 10 (24) 

thorn blossom, 53 (177) 

Blessing scalds, &c. 35-7 (109-12) 
Blood, human, 17 (67), 22, 23 (79) 
Blossom of broom, 52 (174) 

thorn, 53 (177) 

Bottle of pins, 25, 26 (89) 
Bottles, empty physic, 11 (33) 
Bowing to magpie, 9 (18) 

Lady Moon, 10 (26) 

Bramble, a defence against shrew-mice, 
&c, 42, 43 (136, 137) 

remedy for eruptions, 43 (137) 

Brake cutting, 31 (97) 
Breakfast, singing before, 11 (34) 
Bride, a, and her pins, 33 (104) 
Broadwater Downs, oak on, 20 (76) 
Brooms, green, 52 (173) 
Broom blossom, 52 (174) 
Burn, blessing for, 35, 36 (109, 110) 
Burying meat for warts, 41 (130) 

peeled stick, 41 (131) 

Butter and spider remedy, 45 (153) 



C. 



Cards, divination by, 32 (102) 
Cat, dreaming of, 13 (57) 

May, 17 (70) 

recipe for retaining strange, 8 (4) 

sneezing, 10 (25) 

story, 25, (87) 

strange black, 8 (4) 

sucks breath, 25 (88) 

Caterpillar for ague, 39 (122) 
Cast teeth, children's, 44 (143) 
Charms against witchcraft, 24 (85, 86), 
25, 26 (89), 28 (91) 



64 



INDEX, 



Charm, metrical, for scald, 35 (109) 

thorn, 36 (110) 

Charms, Curative-, Chap. v. 

■ Love-, Chap. iv. 
Chickens, chirping sound as of, in death- 
chamber, 56 (183) 
Children, cure for bad habit of, 49 (163, 

164) 
Child's nails, 11 (30) 
Christmas Day, birth on, 9 (10) 

opening door on, 9 (11) 

Church door rattling, 51 (166) 
Churching, a tonic, 46 (156) 
Churning charm, 28 (91) 
Cider, longing for, 58 (191) 
Clothes, mending on back, 12(46) 
Communion, Holy, 46 (154) 
Convulsions prevented, 44 (146) 
Confirmation medicinal, 46 (155) 
Corpse, hand of, 48 (159) 

not stiffening, 51 (169) 

Cow, blessing a sick, 37 (112) 
Cradle, rocking an empty, 11 (35) 
Cricket, killing a house-, 13 (53) 
Cross on donkey, 38 (113), 47 (157) 
Crossing knife and fork, 12 (42) 

path fatal to shrew-mice, 42 (133) 

by hare unlucky, 56 (182) 

-shoes, 39(118) 

Crow, cawing of, 52 (172) 
Cuckoo, transformation of, 17 (69) 

first hearing, 10 (21) 

keeper, 17 (68) 

verse on, 10 (20) 

Curtseying to new moon, 10 (26) 
Cuts, 43 (141) 



D. 

Death, Prognostics of, Chap. vi. 

takes three, 52 (170) 

told to bees, 69 (192) 

watch, 57 (187) 

Debility cured by " Churching", 46 (156) 

roasted mice, 49 (162) 

' Sacramental Wine, 46 

(154) 
Dentition aided, 44 (146) 
Devil and blackberries, 14 (60) 

his nutting bag, 14 (61) 

Devils, appearances of, 19 (75) 

Docks, use of, for nettle-stings, 45 (148) 

Dog, howling of, 56 (184) 

ghost of, 17 (66) 

strange, 8 (4) 

liver of, for hydrophobia, 43 (140) 



Donkey's cross, 38 (113), 47 (157) 
Door left open during funeral, 57 (188) 

opening on Christmas Day, 9 ^] 1) 

rattling of Church, 51 (166) 

Doors and windows opened in death- 

chamber, 60 (194) 
Drawers opened in death-chamber, 60 

(194) 
Dream of cat, 13 (57) 

friend, 13 (58) 

teeth, 14 (59) 

uprooted tree, 58 (190 

Dreams caused by turning feather-bed 

on Sunday, 11 (32) 



E. 

Eggs, birds', 10 (22) 

cuckoo sucks 10 (20) 

Egg-shells, 10 (23) 

Elder-stick, 39 (120) 

Epilepsy attributed to witchcraft, 25 (89) 

Eruptions cured by bramble bush, 43 

(137) 
Evil eye, 24 (86), 26 (89) 
Eyes, weakness of, 45 (150) 



F. 

Fairies, Chapter iii 

industrious 28, 29 (93) 

Fairy-baths, 27 (90) 

funeral 28 (92) 

needles, 27 (90) 

names of places, 27 (90) 

rings, 26, 27 (90) 

tale, 27 (90) 

Feathers of pigeon or game, 69 (193) 
Fern cutting, 31 (97) 

owl, 18 (73) 

Fetiches, 54 (179) 
Fire, state of 57(185, 186) 
Fit cures, 25, 26 (89), 39 (124) 
Fleas prevented, 49, 50 (165) 
Fork and knife, across, 12 (42) 
Fortune telling, 24 (84), 32 (101-3) 
Fox's tail, and nail cutting 8 (6) 
Fretfulness cured by Baptism, 44 (145) 
Friday unlucky for beginnings, 13 (49- 
62) 

tradition respecting, 13 (52) 

Friend, dreaming of, 13 (58) 

Full moon, herb gathering at, 45 (151) 

and pig-killing, 11 (29) 



INDEX. 



65 



Funeral boll, 51 (167) 

■ fairy, 28 (92) 

■ unlucky to meet, 52 (171) 



Game feathers, 59 (193) 

Garden, strange swarm of bees in, 9 (14) 

tree uprooted in, 58 (193) 

Ghosts, Chap. iii. 

Goitre, 48 (159,160) 

Good and Evil, Prognostics of, 

Chap. i. 
Grass killed by human blood, 17 (67) 
Green, 12 (44-45) 

brooms in May, 52 (173) 

Glow-worm fright. 53, 54 (178) 



II 



Hailstones, 12, (40) 

Hair, throwing away of, 44 (142) 

of donkey's cross, 38 (113) 

Hand of corpse, 48 (159, 160) 

felon, 48 (159, 160) 

Hare, first crossing path, 56 (182) 
Hare's right fore foot worn in pocket, 39 

(119) 
Hawk, cuckoo changes to, 17 (69) 
Hazel-nut, double, 40 (126) 
Headache, to avoid, 44 (142) 
Headless ghosts, 19 (74) 

> of horse and pig, 20 (77) 

Head-over-heels, tumbling, 10, 11 (27) 

Hedge, bees swarming in, 9 (14) 

■ ■ stake, bees swarming on dead, 58 

(189) 
Hemp-seed sowing, 33 (107) 
Hiccough, 44, 45 (147) 
Horse-shoe, 9 (9), 24 (85) 
House-cricket, killing, 13 (53) 

leek cutting, 13 (55) 

Houses, haunted, 21, 22 

Howling of dog, 56 (184) 

Husband, how to gain knowledge op 

future, Chap. iv. 
Hydrophobia, 43 (140) 



Ignis faluus, 53 (178) 
Initials in fern roots, 31 (97) 



J. 



"Jack o' Lantern," 
Jaundice, 45 (153) 



53 (178) 



Key and Bible, divination by, 31 (99) 
Killing house-cricket, 13 (53) 

pig, 11 (29) 

snake, 9 (12) 

Kirdford, patch of ground at, 17 (67) 
Kitten and baby, 18 (71) 
Kneeling beasts, 17 {65) 
Knife and fork across, 12 (42) 
gift of 12 (43) 



L. 

Leaf, catching a falling, 9 (1 5) 
Leaves of dock, 45 (148) 

sage, 39 (121, 123) 

shrew-ash, 42 (135) 

tansy, 39 (123) 

Left shoe on first, 12 (48) 

" twin," 47 (158) 

Lightning attracted by ash and oak, 43 

(138) 
Liver of dog that bit you, 43 (140) 
Long-life bestowed by maple, 43 (139) 
Looking-g'as3 breaking, 51 (168) 
Love and Marriage, Chap. iv. 
Luck, bad and good, Chap. i. 



M. 



Magpies, 8 (1, 2), 9 (17-19), 18 (72) 

Maple-tree, 48 (139) 

Marriage and Love, Chap. iv. 

May cat, 17 (70) 

— — green brooms in, 52 (173) 

moon, 45 (151) 

Meat stolen for wart cure, 41 (130) 
Medicine bottles, selling, 11 (33) 
Midsummer Eve, skeletons dancing on, 

20 (76) 
observances, 17 (65), 

33 (107, 108) 
Misdemeanour corrected, 49 (163, 164) 
Mole's paw, 40 (125) 
Monday nail-cutting, 8 (6) 
Moon, full, 11 (29) ; herbs gathered at, 

45 (151) 



66 



INDEX. 



Moon, new, 8 (5), 10 (26, 27), 11 (28), 

30 (94), 45 (151) 
Money, a desideratum on first hearing 

cuckoo, 10 (21) 
seeing 

new moon, 10 (27) 
Mother's longing delays dying, 60 (1 95) 
Mount at Pulborough, 16 (64), 28 (92) 
Mouse, Shrew- 42 (132-G) 
" Muck," stick buried in, 41 (131) 



N. 



Nails, 8 (6), 11 (30, 31) 

marks on, 32 (103) 

Name, not to be told before Baptism, 11 

(37) 
Nanny- wiper, 48, 49 (161) 
Necklace of peony-root, 44 (146) 
Needle scandix, 27 (90) 
Nest, magpie's, 18 (72) 

swallow's, 13 (54) 

Nettle stings, 45 (148) 

New Year's Day, first moon after, 30 

(94) 
Nine peas in first pod, 9 (16) 

roasted mice, virtues of, 49 (162) 

Nose-bleed, use of, 32 (100) 
Nut, double hazel-, 40 (126) 

charm, 30 (95) 

Nutting on Sundays, 14 (61) 



(). 



Oak on Broadwater Downs, 20 (76) 

draws lightning, 43 (138) 

October 11th, blackberries' fate on, 1 

(60) 
Offington, passage at, 16 (64) 
One black sheep, 8 (3) 
— — primrose, 52 {174) 

snowdrop, 52 (175) 

Owl, Fern, 18 (73) 

Screech, 54, 55 (180) 



Paw of live mole, 40 (125) 
Passage at Offington, 16 (64) 
Peas, nine in first pod, 9 (16) 
Peeling stick for warts, 4] (131) 
Peony-root necklace, 44 (146) 
M Peter Piper " charm, 45 (147) 



Piebald horse, 38 (115) 
" Pick-nosed mice," 42 035) 
Pig-fairy, story of, 27 (90) 
Pigeons' feathers, 59 (193) 
Pins in bottle, 25, 26 (89) 

a bride's, 33 (104) 

crooked, 33 (105) 

used in wart cure, 41 (129) 

" Pook needles," 27 (90) 

Primrose, 52 (174), 53 (176) 

" Puck," or " Puck-bird," 18 (73) 

complaint, 18 (73) 

" Puck's stool," 27 (90) 

Pulborough, mount at, 16 (64), 28 (92) 



Rats, 23 (80) 

Rattling of church door, 51 (166) 

Raven, 55 (181) 

Rheumatism, remedies for, 39 (117-120), 

46 (155) 
Riding witches, 24 (83) 
Right shoulder, new moon should be scon 

over, 8 (5) 
Ring rubbing for sty, 45 (149) 

silver 39 (124) 

spell, 31 (98) 

Robin Redbreast's cushion, 38 (114) 
Roof, bees in house, 33 (106) 
Rupture, treatment of, 40 (128) 



Sacramental wine for debility, 46 (154) 

Sage leaves, 39(121, 123) 

Saint John's Eve, 17 (65), 20 (76), 33 

(107, 108) 
— — Leonard's Forest, serpent in, 15 

(63) 
Salt spilling, 12(41) 
Sapling, use of split ash, 40 (128) 
Sark washing, 33 (108) 
Scald, metrical cure for, 35 (109) 
Screech owl, 54, 55 (180) 
Scrofula, 45(151,152) 
Serpent story, 15, 16 (63) 
Sharp-edged gift, 12 (43) 
— — — instrument, wound from, 43 

44 (141) 
Sheep, black, 8 (8), 10(24) 
Shoes, crossing ot, 39 (118) 

horse, 9 (9), 24 (85) 

order of putting on, 12 (48) 

tansy leaf in, 39 (123) 



INDEX. 



67 



.Shrew-ash and mouse, 42, 43 (132-6) 
Singing hefore breakfast, 11 (34) 
" Sin-struck," 23 (81) 
Six. six-pences begged, 39 (124) 
Skeletons dancing, 20 (76) 
Skin of snake, 9 (13) 
Smugglers, 20-22 (78) 
Snakes, 9 (12), 12 (47), 15 (62, 63) 48, 

49 (161) 
Sneezing cat, a, 10 (25) 
Snowdrop, one, 52, 53 (175) 
Song, a Sussex, 60 (195) 
Sowing hemp, 33 (107) 
Spider and butter, 45 (153) 
Spirits, 19, 20 (74-76) 

evil, as rats, 23 (80) 

Spring, headaches, 44 (142) 

Stranger coming, 57 (186) 

Stick, elder, for rheumatism, 39 (120) 

peeling, for warts 41 (131) 

Stiffening, non-, of corpse, 51 (169) 
Stocking wrong side out, 8 (8) 
Stolen meat for cure of warts, 41 (130) 
Stool, Puck's, 27 (90) 
Sty in eye, 45 (149) 
Sunday, bed-making, 11 (32) 

cap casting, 8 (7) 

. charm, 35 (109) 

nail cutting, 11 (31) 

nutting, 14 (61) 

Sungreen, 13 (55) 
Swallows' nests, 13 (54) 
Sweethearts, discovery of, Chap. iv. 
Sword-stick, story, 43, 44 (141) 



T. 



Tansy leaf, 39 (123) 

Talisman against witchcraft, 24 (85) 

Tea-cup, sorcery, 32 (101) 

Teasel cup, use of water in, 45 (150) 

Teeth, childrens' cast, 44 (!43) 

— dream of, 14 (59) 
Teething aided, 44 (146) 
Thorn blossom, 53 (177) 

charm, 36 (110) 

tree, saves from lightning, 43 (138) 

Three caws, 52 (172) 

die, 52 (170) 

— — sneezes of cat, 10 (25) 
Thrush, 47 (158) 
Toad, use of live, 45 (152) 
Toothache, 40 (125-7) 
Treasure buried, 16 (64) 



Tree, magpie's nest in, 18 (72) 

dream of uprooted, 58 (190) 

Tumbling head-over-heels, 10, 11 (27) 
" Twin, left," 47 (158) 



U. 



Unquiet Grave, the," 60 (195) 



V. 



Verbal cures, 35-7 (109-12), 40 (127), 

44, 45 (147) 
Vervain for weakly children, 38 (116) 
Viper-bite charm, 36 (110), 37 (111) 
Nanny, 48, 49 (161) 



W, 



Warts, 41 (129-31) 

Water from teasel cup, use of, 45 (150) 

Weakly children, remedies for, 38 (116), 

46 (154), 49 (163, 164) 
Weak eyes, 45 (150) 
Wens, 48 (159, 160) 
White animals, apparitions of, 54 (179) 

thorn blossom, 53 (176) 

Whooping cough cures, 38 (113-115) 
" Will o' the Wisp," 53 (178) 
Window open in death-chamber, 60 (194j 
pane, unlucky to see new moon 

through, 11 (28) 
Witches, Chap. iii. 

boats, 10 (23) 

Witchcraft suspected, 24 (85, 86), 25, 26 

(87, 89) 
Wonders, Chap. ii. 
Word charms, 13 (56), 24 (86), 28 (91), 

30 (94, 95), 31 (99), 32 (100), 33 

(107), 35-37 (109-112), 40 (127), 44, 

45 (147, 148), 50 (165) 
cures 35-37 (109-112), 40 (127), 

44, 45 (147, 148) 
" Worsling" apple-trees, 13 (56) 
Wounds, blessings for, 35-37 (109-112) 
with sharp instruments, 43, 44 



(141) 



Y. 



Yarrow, a use of, 32 (100) 
Yellow pin, 33 (105) 



F2 




MISCELLANEOUS. 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 




F all the branches of popular literature, the folk-tale has 
been of late years the most studied. Every country in 
Europe has contributed its share towards a general col- 
lection of stories current among the people, and nume- 
rous additions to the stock have been made by collectors in all 
parts of the world. But the contributions have varied greatly, both 
in volume and in worth. Germany led the way, and its wide 
field has been worked by more explorers than any other country 
has produced. Two of the largest and most valuable of recent 
collections have been made in Eussia and in Sicily, Afanasief having 
published 332 Russian stories (Moscow, 1863), and Dr. Giuseppe 
Pitre 300 Sicilian stories (Palermo, 1875), the texts being provided in 
each case with copious and excellent notes, and numerous variants 
being often given. England's share, on the other hand, has been a 
small one, confined to local collections. Ireland was early in the field, 
and the West Highlands of Scotland have yielded a rich harvest to 
Mr. J. F. Campbell, whose published collection contains 8G tales, 
besides many variants, and whose stock of as yet unprinted stories 
derived from Scotland and Ireland must be immense, for in 1862 he 
was able to say : "791 is the number now reached, and the manu- 
scripts would fill a wheelbarrow." But the folk-tales which have been 
collected and put upon record in England itself are by no means 
numerous, and they are often not very good of their kind. It is to be 
feared that it is now too late to remedy the neglect from which they 
have suffered. Mr. Campbell is inclined to think that many English 
folk-tales still exist, though it may not be easy to discover them. 
But the general opinion seems to be, that, although many local 
traditions have survived, as well as numerous short stories or anecdotes 
illustrative of rustic superstitions, especially of those relating to fairies, 



f Z NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

yet the genuine popular tale, not derived from literature, but orally 
transmitted from generation to generation of the common people, not 
only is all but extinct, but has left behind it singularly few traces of 
its former existence. In early times it probably flourished in England 
as well as in other lands. But some as yet unexplained cause must 
have brought its career to an untimely end. Some students of the 
subject have attributed its decay to the Reformation, others to 
Puritanism or to the spread of education. But England does not 
stand alone so far as education or Protestantism are concerned, and its 
local and temporary Puritanism can scarcely have annihilated a 
flourishing branch of national fiction. Whatever the cause may have 
been, the evil it wrought seems irreparable ; unless, indeed, the efForts 
of the Folk-lore Society, working in concert over the whole face of the 
land, may succeed in doing for England as a whole what has been 
already done by single workers for some parts of it. As yet, the only 
writer who has devoted a special work to the tales of the whole 
kingdom is M. Bruyere,* but of the hundred stories which he quotes 
forty belong to Scotland, twenty-seven to Ireland, and four to the 
Isle of Man. In modern days the old English nursery tales appear to 
have given way to versions of the French adaptations of Perrault and 
his successors. Of the older stories, preserved in class-books and 
other works, two only appear to have a specially English ring about 
them, Jack the Giant-Killer and Tom Hickathrift. Not that those tales 
can be set down as original creations of the English mind, but they seem 
to have been naturalized in England at an early date, and to have 
remained for a considerable period comparatively free from foreign 
influence. Of Jack and the Beanstalk, moreover, something of the 
same kind may perhaps be said. 

It is impossible to impress too strongly on collectors the absolute 
necessity of accurately recording the stories they hear, and of accom- 
panying them by ample references for the sake of verification. The 
temptation to alter, to piece together, and to improve, is one which 
many minds find extremely seductive ; but yielding to it deprives the 
result of any value, except for the purpose of mere amusement. In 

* Contes Populaircs dc la Grandc-Brctagnc par Loys Bruyorc. Paris 
(Ilarhettc) 1875. 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 73 

this respect Mr. Campbell's Tales of the West Highlands may be taken 
as a model. Nor can collectors be too impressively warned against 
the danger of drawing hasty inferences from the stories which come 
before them, of putting them forward as illustrations or proofs of 
some historical or mythological theory. The functions of a collector 
and a commentator differ widely, and it is seldom that the one is 
capable of accomplishing the other's special work. Patience, industry, 
and conscientiousness are the main qualifications required in the case 
of gatherers of material. But examiners and sifters of gathered stores 
ought to possess, in addition to these virtues, exceptional prudence and 
cautiousness, while the final dealer with the accumulated stores, he 
who is to turn them to ultimate account, to piece together scattered 
fragments, to resolve disorder into symmetrical arrangement, to rebuild 
out of shapeless ruins temples of ancient gods, must have still higher 
qualifications, wide and deep learning, matured judgment, and well- 
trained skill. That highly-qualified person does not seem to have yet 
appeared upon the scene. 

So attractive, however, are the problems which folk-tales present 
with respect to their origin and meaning, that many fruitless attempts 
will probably be made to solve them before their destined solver 
arrives. Each of the two hypotheses which have been put forward to 
account for the existence, in so many lands, of similar popular tales 
has its own points of deep interest, its claims to arrest attention, to 
pique curiosity, and to stimulate devotion to its cause. No loftier 
origin, no more venerable parentage, can be assigned to any form of 
literature than that which is ascribed to folk-tales by scholars who 
recognise in them "heirlooms of the Aryan family" ; who consider that 
they have been independently developed by the various branches of 
that family, from mythological germs which existed in the minds of 
our primaeval ancestors, while they still inhabited their ancient home 
in the highlands of Central Asia. Viewed in this light, such a story 
as that of the Sleeping Beauty may well inspire a respect border- 
ing upon veneration. In the world's morning-time, before the religious 
instincts of our ancestors had taken distinct shape or found articulate 
utterance, the idea may well have occurred to some of the more poetic 
among them that the revival of the earth in Spring resembled an 



74 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

awakening from sleep. And from this simile may have sprung a legend 
of a maiden who slept through a space of time corresponding with or 
typical of the length of the winter season, and who then awoke to 
active life and enjoyment. This legend may easily have been carried 
away by the emigrants who successively moved southward or west- 
ward from their home, and it may have served as a theme for the 
story-tellers to enlarge upon for the benefit of their hearers, Asiatic 
and European, till each division of every branch of the Aryan family 
had its own cherished form of the ancient tale. If this explanation of 
the birth and growth of the story be accepted, and if other popular 
tales be credited with a similar history, there can scarcely be any 
limits set to the respect which their lineage ought to inspire, or to the 
value which ought to be attributed to them as illustrations of ancient 
beliefs. 

But there is one difficulty which attends this method of accounting for 
the marked similarity which prevails among the various forms which 
some stories have assumed in divers lands. That similarity appears 
to be too great. Many mythologies and many languages have been 
elaborated from common mythological and linguistic germs by the 
nations into which the Aryan family has grown. And between the 
various systems of religion or speech a family likeness exists, but it 
is one which, except in a very few instances, can be recognised only by 
the eye of the trained mythologist or linguist. Lapse of time and 
altered circumstances so affected them that they lost, ages ago, so far 
as ordinary spectators were concerned, their mutual resemblance. 
But the tales preserved among the common people in a score of 
lands still offer similarities patent to every observer, not only their 
incidents being frequently alike, but the sequence in which these 
incidents follow each other being in many cases all but invariable. 
This difficulty is obviated if we can accept the other hypothesis, 
according to which at least a great part of the folk-tales now existing 
in Europe have been borrowed from the East. According to it, 
oriental story-tellers, ages ago, composed countless tales, often taking 
as their themes legends based upon mythological ideas common to all the 
Indo-European races, and their compositions became current in various 
parts of cultured Asia, at a time when by far the greater part of 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 75 

Europe was still utterly destitute of anything approximating to culture. 
In the course of time these stories gradually made their way westward, 
becoming naturalised and somewhat modified in every land which they 
successively reached, until the whole European popular mind was 
saturated by this stream of oriental fiction. 

If this hypothesis be correct, the felk-talcs of Europe do not reflect 
European mythology, and cannot be used as evidence relating to it, 
except in so far as they are in many cases founded upon mythological 
ideas developed from germs common to the ancestors, both of the 
Easterns who elaborated those tales, and of the Westerns who bor- 
rowed them. Thus the inner meaning of the story of the Sleeping 
Beauty is, in accordance with European as well as Asiatic myths, 
apparently relating to the slumber of nature during the winter. But its 
outward form, its framework or setting, may be due to the artistic 
imagination of the East. This hypothesis, satisfactory as it may seem 
to be in explanation of the similarity prevailing among European 
variants of the same tale, is not deficient in its attractive difficulties, its 
fascinating puzzles. To account for the onward drift of the stories, their 
universal reception and preservation, is by no means easy. The effect 
produced upon mediaeval European fiction by the translation of certain col- 
lections of Asiatic written tales has been made clear to all. The evidence 
Avhich proves it is direct and indisputable. But with respect to the borrow- 
ing of tales preserved by oral tradition only indirect evidence can gene- 
rally be obtained. A few instances occur in which language bears witness 
to a story's migrations. Thus the well-known substitution of verre 
for vair, in the French description of Cinderella's slipper, enables us to 
detect the French origin of some variants of her history. Whenever 
she is found wearing a slipper of glass, we may be sure that her story 
has at least been subjected to a French influence, and that at a compa- 
ratively recent period. Another instance of this kind of test is afforded 
by one of Mr. Webster's Basque legends. In it a man who tries to 
repeat a spell which he has heard a witch employ in order to fly through 
the air, says, " Over the clouds and under the hedges," instead of 
" Under the clouds and over the hedges," and suffers much in conse- 
quence of his error. Mr. Webster remarks, " The blunder is con- 
founding dessus } over, and dessous, under. This shows that the tale is 



70 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

originally French, or at least the witch's part of it ; for this punning 
mistake could not be made in Basque." But such verbal tests as these 
are so rare that they do not supply any appreciable amount of evidence. 
The mention of animals unknown to Europe might seem to bear witness 
to the Asiatic origin of some stories, but such testimony is uncertain. 
As Professor Benfey has remarked, the lion, of which the German 
people know nothing except by hearsay, has long ago in popular 
opinion dethroned the old German king of the beasts, the bear. But 
in tracing the origin of a story such details are of slight importance 
compared with its general tenour, its inner meaning. Underlying the 
tales which have become popular favourites certain moral or mytho- 
logical ideas are generally perceptible, an examination of which will, 
in at least many instances, give some clue as to the original home of 
those tales. It would greatly facilitate researches of this kind if some 
general system of classification of popular tales could be agreed upon, 
in accordance with which every story in a fresh collection could be 
referred at once to its proper place, might be designated by a number 
or a name. Some tales are manifestly capable of being reduced to 
order, and ranked under the names of some prominent and familiar 
member of the group to which they belong. Thus we may speak of 
Cinderella or Giant-Killer stories, with full assurance that we shall be 
generally intelligible and sufficiently precise. But there are others 
which are not to be so simply denoted, and which seem to require more 
elaborate formulas for their identification, perhaps resembling those used 
in chemistry. The most elaborate attempt at a classification of folk-tales 
yet made is that due to J. G. von Hahn, who prefixed to his collection 
of Greek and Albanian Tales (1864) a scheme for the reduction of such 
stories to their original elements, and their arrangement in divisions and 
groups. His plan was afterwards employed and modified by Mr. 
Baring Gould, whose classification of " Story Radicals " is appended 
to Mr. Henderson's "Folk-lore of the Northern Counties." lJahn 
arranges the stories with which he deals in three divisions, the first 
relating to family ties, the second to miscellaneous subjects, the third 
to contests of heroes and demons. These three divisions are subdivided 
into forty sections, to each of which is given, when possible, the name 
of the principal actor or actors in some well-known myth or story of the 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 77 

group which it represents. A condensation of his synopsis, which 
occupies 16 pages of his work, may be attempted as follows : — 

DIVISION I.— FAMILY. 

Subdivision A.— Husband and Wife affected by 

(a) Desertion. 

1. Psyche. — Supernatural husband deserts wife. 

2. Melusina. — Supernatural wife deserts husband. 

8. Penelope. — Faithful wife recovers truant husband. 

(b) Expulsion. 

4. Calumniated wife banished but restored. 

(c) Sale or Purchase. 

5 — 6. Access to spouse or loved-one bought. 

Subdivision B. — Parent and Child. 

(a) Children longed for. 

7. They assume for a time monstrous shapes. 

8. They are made victims to a vow or promise. 

9. Their birth is attended by various wonders. 

(b) Exposure of Children. 

JO. Amphion.— Babe exposed, by unmarried mother. 

11. CEdipus. — Babe exposed by married parents. 

12. Danae. — Mother and babe exposed together. 

13. Andromeda. — Daughter exposed to a monster. 

(c) Step-children. 

14. Little Snow-white. Stepmother persecutes girl. 

15. Phrixus and Helle. Stepmother persecutes a brother and 

sister. 

Subdivision C— Brothers and Sisters. 

16. Youngest brother ill-treated by elder brothers. 

17. Cinderella. Youngest sister ill-treated. 

18. Dioscuri. Twins help each other. 

19. Sister (or mother) betrays brother (or son). 

20. Sister saves brother from enchantment. 

21. Heroine supplanted by step-sister (or servant). 

22. Mao;ic brothers-in-law assist hero. 



78 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

DIVISION II.— MISCELLANEOUS. 

(a) Bride-Winning. 

23. Bride von by heroic exploits. 

24. Bride won by ingenuity. 

(b) Abduction of Heroine. 

25. Proserpine. Heroine carried off by force. 

26. Helen and Paris. 

27. Medea and Jason. 

(c) Various Subjects. 

28. Swan-maidens robbed of garments and married. 

29. Snake-brought herbs restore life. 

30. Bluebeard. A Forbidden Chamber opened 

31. Punchkin, or the Giant without any heart. 

32. Grateful Beasts assist hero. 

33. Hop-o'-my Thumb. Hero tiny but brave. 

34. A strong fool works wonders. 

35. Faithful John, or Rama and Luxman. 

36. Disguisal of hero or heroine. 

DIVISION III.— CONTRAST OF INNER AND OUTER WORLD. 
87. Hero is killed by demon, but revives. 

38. Hero defeats demon. 

39. Hero tricks demon. 

40. Lower world visited. 

Mr. Baring Gould arranges his stories according to 51 u Story- 
Radicals." They form two main divisions, the first containing " Family 
Stories," the second " Various." The first division is subdivided into 
four classes, relating to : 1. Husband and Wife; 2. Parent and Child; 
3. Brother and Sister; 4. Persons Betrothed. The second also con- 
tains four classes, relating to: 1. Men and the Unseen World; 2. Men 
matched with Men; 3. Men and Beasts; 4. Luck depending on the 
preservation of a Palladium. 

These attempts at orderly arrangement are of much practical use. 
But their weak point is that in them too much attention is generally 
paid to the mere framework of the story, the setting, which often 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 79 

varies with time and place ; more stress being often laid upon the 
accidental than the essential parts of a tale. It may, perhaps, be 
allowable to suggest a different method of classification. Stories might 
be divided, first of all, into two divisions — mythological and non- 
mythological. The mythological stories ought then to be arranged, so 
far as is possible, according to the principal myth which they appear 
to illustrate or embody, little attention being paid to the mere frame- 
work of the story, to the fact that the human actors in it are few or 
many, are bound by parental or fraternal or matrimonial ties. The 
non-mythological stories, among which would be classed many which 
deal accidentally with mythological beings, might be divided into 
moral stories, puzzles, jokes, &c. ; the moral stories being arranged 
according to the leading ideas which were in the mind of the teacher 
who first shaped them, the others being classified in any manner found 
practically convenient. If some such system could be universally 
adopted, story-comparers would be spared much loss of time and 
labour. The results of an attempt thus to classify the collection made 
by J. and W. Grimm will be given at the end of this article. 

It is often, no doubt, difficult to decide whether a story ought to 
be classed under this or that head. But most tales, if a sufficient 
number of their variants are collected and compared, offer some 
salient points, some prominent features, which may be taken as their 
true characteristics. By way of illustration of the preceding remarks, 
a few cases in point may be mentioned. Almost all the tales about 
Grateful Beasts, of which Puss-in-Boots is the most familiar repre- 
sentative, are manifest expansions of moral apologues intended to 
show that man ought to behave with kindness towards the brute 
creation. The idea that the lower animals ought to be humanely 
treated is of recent date in Europe, in some parts of which it has made 
little progress even at the present day. But it prevailed in Asia ages 
ago, the Buddhists laying special stress upon the duty of respecting all 
animal life, and striving to impress the necessity of so doing upon the 
minds of their disciples by means of numerous fables and tales. A 
favourite subject with these teachers was the striking contrast offered 
by the ingratitude of man and the gratitude of beasts, one which makes 
itself clearly apparent in every complete version of Puss-in-Boots. 



80 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

In European visions of that tale this contrast is often wanting, the 
ultimate unkindness of the man to the cat or other animal being 
omitted. Or else the original opening of the story is lost, that in 
which a reason is given for the animal's devotion to the man, which 
ought to be due to its gratitude for kindness or forgiveness. No 
version has yet been found in the West which is as complete and as 
consistent as that which was discovered in the Caucasus, and has been 
given by Schiefner in his collection of Avar Tales. In it a miller 
traps a marauding fox, but allows it to go free. Its gratitude induces 
it to play the part attributed in our version of the story to the domestic 
cat, a comparatively recent importation into fairyland, the only stipu- 
lation which it makes being that it shall receive at its death an 
honourable funeral. The enriched and ennobled miller forgets his 
obligations to the fox. It pretends to die, and he is about to consign 
it to an unhonoured grave, when it returns to life, and reduces him to 
penitence by threatening to disclose the secret of his lowly birth. 

Another cat story probably belongs to the same class of moral tales 
originally intended to inculcate humanity towards animals, the legend 
of Whittington. That it was known several centuries ago in Persia is 
proved by literary evidence, but it probably existed at a much earlier 
period in India, where variants of it may still be current. Some of 
the Russian variants seem to be worthy of mention on account of the 
evidence they bear to the moral nature of the tale. In one (Afanasief, 
v. 32) a labourer works conscientiously for three years. At the end 
of each year he receives a copeck from his employer, which he drops 
into a river, saying, "If I have served justly and faithfully my copeck 
will not sink." And when he does this for the third time all three 
copecks float on the surface of the water. He takes them back and 
they bring him good luck. One of them he gives to a man who is 
going to a church, telling him to spend it on a candle to be burnt 
before a holy picture. Being dropped in the church, the coin takes 
fire, and illuminates the whole building. With another he purchases 
a cat which, in a catless region much plagued by rats and mice, is 
exchanged for three ships. With these ships he sails to a land where, 
by the aid of the third copeck, he is enabled to save from a demon a 
princess whom he afterwards marries. 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. #1 

In another story (Afanasief, vii. 22) the youngest of three 
brothers, who is a simpleton, lays out the money he has inherited in 
the purchase of a dog and a cat. The dog afterwards assists him, 
when he is living alone and in poverty, by providing him with food. 
The cat he ships as merchandise on board a vessel which is going to 
sea, and which comes to a land where " rats and mice are as plentiful 
as blades of grass in a field." The captain goes ashore with his goods 
and carries the cat along with him. A merchant invites him to his 
house, and gives him a bed in a barn which is infested by rats and 
mice. In the morning the host goes thither, expecting to find nothing 
left of his guest but bare bones. To his astonishment the captain is 
alive and well ; the cat is just finishing the last rat. Whereupon the 
merchant buys the cat for six caskfuls of gold. Now comes the most 
characteristic part of the story. The simpleton is greatly puzzled as 
to how he shall spend the three caskfuls of money which fall to his 
share. At length he wanders through towns and villages, giving 
money to the poor, until two of the casks are emptied. With the 
contents of the third he buys incense, which he burns in the open air. 
Its sweet savour goes up to heaven, and suddenly an angel appears, 
saying, " The Lord has bid me ask what thou wishest to have." In 
doubt what to reply, he consults an old man, who says, " If riches 
are given thee, may be thou wilt forget God ; better choose a wise 
wife." The simpleton does so, and never has reason to repent of his 
choice. 

More important than the moral are the mythological stories. Some 
of these may fairly be resolved into nature-myths. The story of the 
Sleeping Beauty has already been mentioned as a probable expansion 
of an idea suggested by the apparent awakening of nature every spring 
from her winter sleep. And all the tales of the Cinderella class, in which 
an originally brilliant being is reduced to a state of temporary obscurity 
or eclipse, but is eventually restored to his or her pristine splendour, 
are probably based upon similar notions connected with the phenomena 
of day and night or of the seasons of the year. As the nature-myths 
clustering around the sun or the storm, into which many of these stories 
seem to be resolvable, were common to European and Asiatic my- 
thology, the fact that they underlie a number of European tales cannot 



OZ NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

by itself be used as evidence of their original domicile. But there are 
also mythological ideas familiar to the East, but not to Europe, which 
seem to have given rise to certain groups of folk-tales. These tales 
cannot be explained in accordance with any known system of European 
mythology ; or at least can be rendered intelligible only by such a 
stretch of the " solar theory " as is apt to inflict damage upon a system 
of explanation which is capable of doing good service if not too 
violently handled. But they are perfectly in accordance with mytho- 
logical ideas still prevailing in the East; they can be thoroughly 
explained as embodiments of those ideas ; and they coincide in many 
respects with tales which are current among many oriental peoples. 

To insist upon recognising nature-myths in these stories appears to 
be injudicious, though their mythology may possibly be capable of 
being traced back to an earlier form, which may have had reference to 
beneficent luminaries and hostile powers of darkness. In many cases 
the kernel of the story, after we have stripped off the outer shell which 
time and travel may have disfigured, seems to be decidedly oriental, 
and in those cases we may be allowed to assume that it has come to 
us from some oriental source. As specimens of this class of mytho- 
logical tales may be taken all such stories as Beauty and the Beast or 
the Frog Prince. The numerous stories of this class which are to be 
found in Asia seem to be based upon the idea, familiar to Indian 
mythology, that a divine or semi-divine being may be compelled to 
assume the form of a mortal, even of one of the inferior animals — of a 
snake, an ape, or a frog — and to retain that form, either constantly 
or during certain periods, until the spell or curse to which the com- 
pulsion is due becomes broken. As a general rule the outward form 
assumed is a species of husk, which can be donned or doffed in an 
instant ; and on the preservation or destruction of that husk by its 
discoverers, during the temporary absence of its usual wearer, depends 
the continuance of the spell. In the Indian forms of such a story, the 
leading idea being intelligible to its narrators, the tale itself generally 
remains intelligible, and, within the limits allowed to such fiction, 
reasonable. But the European variants, handed down by generations 
of tellers to whom the mythological basis of the story was quite un- 
familiar, have often lost those pretensions to probability which even a 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 83 

fairy tale should possess, that respect for consistency which no story- 
teller should ignore. 

As an illustration of the confusion of ideas to which this transference 
of tales into alien lands gives rise may be taken one of the numerous 
stories relating to destiny. These stories form a large group connected 
with the mythological class, inasmuch as they deal with mythological 
beings, but properly belong to the moral class, since they are intended to 
inculcate the doctrine that human life is ruled by fate, that no man can 
escape from his allotted doom. Fatalism has never completely over- 
powered any of the western nations, though it has long exercised no slight 
influence for evil in several parts of Europe. The belief of classic 
times in Fates, Moirai or Parcse, divine beings who allot to each 
human life, at its commencement, its span and tenour, has survived to 
our own days in the popular faith of Greece in Moirais, of Italy in 
Sorti and Fate, and of Western Europe in the Fairies, whose name, as 
well as some of their attributes, appear to have descended through the 
Fate from the ancient Fates. But on the energetic nations of Northern 
Europe, in spite of a theoretic belief in Norns and similar beings, the 
idea of an inexorable destiny, relentlessly controlling man's free will, 
seems never to have got a firm hold, and in their popular tales it does 
not play a specially prominent part. 

An old historian asserts that the ancient Slavs had no belief in 
fatality, that their mythology recognised no Fates. This seems to 
have been too sweeping an assertion ; but they do not appear to have 
developed the idea of an all-controlling destiny so fully as the Hellenic 
and Italic races, from whose descendants they afterwards borrowed 
their religious systems. On Russia the influence of the fatalistic East 
has been considerable, and to this day remains a source of much harm ; 
but the belief in luck and destiny which it has inspired is vague and 
uncertain, and scarcely calculated to take definite form in such a story 
as the following, which is taken from one of the Russian romances 
called " builinas." The hero Sviatogor is told by an old man, whom 
he finds spinning threads of destiny, that he is doomed to marry a 
certain maiden whose skin is like the bark of a tree. He goes to 
inspect her, finds her asleep, arid, not liking her looks, attempts to 
escape from his fate by cutting her throat. Then he goes away, think- 

o2 



84 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

ing he has killed her. But his sword has merely perforated her bark- 
like outer cuticle, without inflicting any other injury upon her than a 
trifling cut. When she awakes and gets up, that species of husk splits 
and falls off, and the true skin which it discloses is soft and fair. Time 
passes by and Sviatogor meets, admires, woos, and wins her. Observ- 
ing one day, after the marriage has taken place, a scar upon her 
throat, he asks her how it was caused. She tells him how, years 
before, she was covered by a sort of husk, and how it was split by a 
sword-cut, which some stranger dealt her as she lay asleep in such 
and such a place. And when her husband hears the wondrous tale 
he silently marvels, perceiving that no man can ever escape from his 
destined wife. This is a good specimen of a story which in its Euro 
pean form is unreasonable, even when all due allowance has been 
made, and which, though manifestly mythological, is not to be fully 
explained by what we know of the ancient mythology of the country 
in which it is found ; but of which an Asiatic variant exists whereof 
the details are reasonable and the mythological meaning intelli- 
gible. 

In China wedding cards are connected by threads, in reference to 
which the following story is told. A traveller once found, an old man 
spinning mystic threads by which he was told couples destined to be 
wedded were linked. Asking whom he was destined to wed, he was 
told the name and abode of a certain damsel. He went to look at her, 
found she was a poor and neglected orphan, and hired an assassin to 
kill her. But his agent only wounded her. She recovered, grew up, 
and was adopted by a wealthy official. Whereupon her destined hus- 
band courted and married her. After the wedding, he asked her why 
she always wore a flower hanging over her forehead. She replied that 
it was to hide the scar left by a wound received in early youth, and 
proceeded to relate the history of her attempted assassination. Where- 
upon the Chinese husband mentally made the same observation which 
occurred to the Russian Sviatogor. It is probable that the part of the 
story which relates to a destined marriage has been borrowed by the 
Russian tale from Asia. The incident, on the other hand, of the 
husk which is split by the sword-cut appears to be taken from the 
Scandinavian story of Brynhild's Magic Sleep, unbroken till the re- 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 85 

moval, by means of Sigurd's sword, of the corslet which has, as it 
were, grown to her body.* 

One of the most popular of the world's folk-tales, being found in 
very many countries far apart, is that which relates the adventures of 
three comrades, usually but not invariably brothers, who contend with 
some demoniacal being, which escapes from them into an underground 
abode. One of them follows it, lowered by the others, and kills it. 
In its dwelling he finds much wealth, together with three fair princesses. 
These his comrades hoist out of the abyss. But him they leave to 
perish below. He escapes, however, generally by means of a grateful 
bird, and returns home to punish his treacherous companions. The 
story has various openings, the companions sometimes being the three 
sons of a king, whose garden or orchard is ravaged by a monster which 
they go forth to kill. Sometimes the demoniacal being appears in the 
shape of a dwarf, who overcomes two of the party but is worsted by 
the third. One of these dwarf stories will serve as a good specimen of 
the similarity which occurs between some tales widely current in 
Europe and also familiar to races which, not belonging to the Aryan 
family, can searcely be supposed to have inherited Aryan mythological 
germs, and to have independently developed from them the folk-tales 
which they possess. 

A Lithuanian tale (Schleicher, No. 38) tells how the hero Martin 
went into a forest to hunt, accompanied by a smith and a tailor. 
Finding an empty hut they took possession of it ; the tailor remained 
in it to cook the dinner, and the others went forth to the chase. When 
the dinner was almost ready, there came to the hut a very little old 
man with a very long beard, who piteously begged for food. After 
receiving it he sprang on the tailor's neck and beat him almost to 
death. When the hunters returned they found their comrade groaning 
on his couch, complaining of illness, but saying nothing about the 



* The idea of a destined wife, combined with a recollection of the ring of 
Polycrates, is found in our ballad of " The Fish and the Ring," in which a 
knight attempts to destroy a maiden whose horoscope told him she was fated to 
become his wife. He is about to throw her into the sea, when he relents, and 
throws in his ring instead, vowing that he will not marry her till she produces 
the ring— which she eventually does, having found it in a fish. 



86 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

bearded dwarf. The next day the smith suffered in a similar way. 
But, when it came to Martin's turn, he proved too wary and too strong 
for the dwarf, whom he overcame, and whom he fastened by the beard 
to the stump of a tree. But the dwarf tore himself loose before the 
hunters came back from the forest, and escaped into a cavern. Tracing 
him by the drops of blood which had fallen from him, the three com- 
panions came to the mouth of the cavern, and Martin was lowered into 
it by the two others. Within it he found three princesses, who had 
been stolen by three dragons. These dragons he slew, and the 
princesses and their property he took to the spot above which his 
comrades kept watch, who hoisted them out of the cavern, but left 
Martin in it to die. As he wandered about disconsolately, he found 
the bearded dwarf, whom he slew. And soon afterwards he was con- 
veyed out of the cavern by a flying serpent, and was able to punish 
his treacherous friends, and to recover the princesses, all three of whom 
he simultaneously married. 

Variants of this story will be found in most of the large European 
collections. But a specially interesting parallel is afforded by a 
Calmuck story (Jiilg's Kalmukischc Mdrchen, No. 3) borrowed from 
an Indian source. The hero, Massang, and his three companions, in 
the course of their wanderings, found an empty house, of which they 
took possession. One of them remained at home to cook, the others 
went to the chase. To him who remained in the hut appeared an old 
woman, only a span high, who asked for food. Having obtained a 
morsel, she immediately seized the remainder and disappeared. The 
hunters returned from the chase, and found no dinner ready. But 
their comrade was ashamed so tell the truth, and declared that a band 
of foes had pillaged the hut. For three days running the same thing 
happened. Each of Massang's companions was tricked by the little 
old woman, who cleared the board and disappeared. But, when 
Massang's turn came to remain at home, he was on his guard against 
her tricks, and when she used force, marvellously strong as she 
proved to be, he was too cunning and too strong for her, binding her 
fast and beating her till the blood streamed forth. At last she got 
away and disappeared, But by her blood-gouts Massang and his com- 
panions traced her to a cavern. Into this Massang was let down by a 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 87 

rope, and found the little old woman lying dead, with heaps of gold 
and jewels around her. These Massang sent up to his companions, 
who took them and went away, leaving him down below. Eventually 
he escaped, found his faithless companions, pardoned them, and went 
his way. 

The origin of the Calmuck tale is known, the Siddhi-kiir, from 
which it comes, being the Mongol form of the Indian Vetalapanch- 
avins'ati. How it found its way into Lithuania we do not know, but 
\t seems much more probable that it was, like the Calmuck tale, bor- 
rowed from India than independently developed from a Pan-Aryan 
mythological germ. These Mongol tales have a special interest, inas- 
much as critics of the school of Benfey ascribe to the Mongols, in con- 
sequence of their long ascendancy over so large a part of the East of 
Europe, a great influence upon European popular fiction. According 
to them, India, the early home of so immense a mass of stories, was the 
source from which the folk-tales of the present day streamed forth, 
originally disseminated by the Buddhistic peoples, and subsequently 
further transmitted by the Mahommedans. 

One of the best of the tales of the Siddhi-kiir may be taken as a 
specimen of a large group of stories which are at the same time myth- 
ological and moml ; supernatural personages being introduced, but act- 
ing in such a manner as to teach, though unintentionally, a moral lesson. 
The leading idea in all the stories of this class which have kept true 
to their original forms is the same. Two persons of opposite characters 
are contrasted in them, the one meritorious, the other undeserving . 
The former is rewarded, the latter punished. But in the course of 
time and travel the contrast between the moral natures of the actors 
has sometimes been obscured, and their rewards or punishments 
appear to be capriciously allotted to them, being the result of accident 
rather than of justice. In the Mongol tale (Jiilg, No. 14) the human 
actors are two brothers, the one of whom is poor, the other rich and 
avaricious. The poor man finds in a forest a number of Dakinis, 
demons of the fairy tribe, who possess a wonder-working hammer, 
which enables its wielder to obtain everything for which he expresses 
a desire. When the spirits have flown away, he carries their hammer 
to his home, and there by its aid provides himself with wealth. His 



88 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

greedy brother, seeing this, compels him by threats to reveal his secret. 
As soon as he hears of the hammer and the spot in which it was found, 
off he sets, presumably to see what he can find there to his own ad- 
vantage. But on his arrival he is pounced upon by the demons, who 
assume that he is the stealer of their hammer, and who proceed to 
punish him by stretching his nose and tying nine knots in it. After 
which they allow him to go home. His sole hope of getting his nose- 
knots untied lies in the magic hammer owned by his brother, who is 
induced, by the promise of a large reward, to attempt to cure him. 
Eight of the nine knots are successfully unloosed by the hammer's 
tap. Then the patient is induced by his wife and his avarice to send 
his brother away, and refuse payment for the incomplete operation. 
As the hammer-bearer leaves the house, the wife snatches the magic 
implement from him, slams the door after him, and returns in triumph 
to complete the cure. But, using the hammer unskilfully, she hits her 
husband so hard with it that she splits his skull asunder. He dies, 
and she and all his goods pass to the brother whom he had tried 
to cheat. 

In this story the merits or demerits of the contrasted persons are not 
very different. For, if the one refuses to give anything to his poor 
brother, the other declines to help his suffering brother unless a rich 
reward is promised him. In a Japanese story * two men are contrasted 
who differ only in the quality of their dancing. According to it a man 
who had a wen on the right side of his face took refuge one stormy 
night in a hollow tree. After a time a number of elves arrived, who 
proceeded to drink and to dance. When they had finished the man 
came forth from the tree, and " now stretching himself out, now draw- 
ing himself together, with quips and cranks and every gesture he was 
master of, went circling round the entire area, singing in a drunken 
voice the while." The elves were delighted, invited him to come again, 
and to ensure his doing so took from him his wen, and kept it as a 
pledge. When he returned home with a smooth face, his next door 
neighbour, who had a wen on the left cheek, inquired about his cure, 

* Mitford's " Tales of Old Japan," i. 276. The version quoted above was 
supplied by Mr. J. C. Hall to Mr. Charles Goodwin, who printed it in a lecture 
read before the Asiatic Society of Japan, March 17, 1875. 






NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 89 



and determined to take advantage of the information he received. So 
he also passed a night in the hollow tree. The elves arrived, and 
inquired if the dancer had come. The man appeared, but his per- 
formance was very inferior to that of his predecessor. After he had 
made " an awkward attempt at a dance," the elves were so displeased 
that they determined he should have his pledge back, and should not 
be invited to come again. So one of them took the wen and threw it 
at him. And it stuck on his right cheek, u so that now he had a wen 
on both sides of his face." 

In several variants of the same tale found in Ireland, Brittany, Spain, 
and elsewhere, the supernatural actors are fairies, the human beings 
contrasted are hunchbacks. As the story is well known it may be very 
briefly noticed. The genial and melodious hunchback, hearing a 
number of fairies singing the names of some of the days of the week, 
improves their song by the addition of the names of some more days. 
The fairies are delighted, and reward him by taking off his hump, 
removing it, according to one version, " with a saw of butter." When 
he returns home, another hunchback, a man of a morose character, 
and with no ear for music, becoming envious, and hearing how and 
where he has been cured, determines to follow his example. He seeks 
the fairies, and finds them singing the new version of their song, upon 
which he shouts out an addition to it, hoping for a reward. But his 
contribution displeases them so much, that they take his predecessor's 
hump and clap it on the top of his own, from which it can never be 
removed ; so he has two humps instead of one. According to some 
variants he was so punished because he shouted out Sunday ; according 
to others, because he omitted to do so. But his real crime, doubtless, 
was, that he sang badly and not to the purpose. 

Much nearer to the original meaning of the story has kept one of 
the most widely-spread of the popular tales of this class, the " Two 
Wanderers " of Grimm (No. 107), and the " True and Untrue " of the 
" Tales from the Norse." In it the moral is so obvious that no change 
of time or place has sufficed to obscure it. In all the versions, which 
are very numerous, the leading incidents remain the same. One of 
two travellers takes advantage of the other's need, and deprives him of 
his eyesight. Sometimes the blinding is the consequence of a wager, 



90 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

sometimes the victim's eyes are the price of food necessary to keep him 
from starvation. But the result is the same. He is left by his heart- 
less blinder to perish. But overhearing a conversation between spirits, 
witches, or animals, he learns how to recover his sight, and to perform 
certain wonders which render him wealthy. His wicked companion, 
finding out what has happened, goes to the spot where the conversation 
took place, hoping to benefit by it. But the conversers, imagining that 
he is their former overhearer, tear him to pieces. Dr. Reinhold Kbhler, 
in a note on the first of Widter and Wolf's Volk&mtirchen aus Vene- 
tien, has given references to about twenty European variants of the story. 
To these may be added a curious specimen of the Asiatic variants, 
taken from the Kirghis tales contained in Radloffs great collection of 
South Siberian folk-lore.* A good man and a bad man were travel- 
ling together, and the good man's food came to an end. Appealing to 
his companion for advice, he was recommended to cut off his ears and 
eat them, which he did. When they were consumed, he again appealed 
to his comrade, who persuaded him to have his eyes taken out, on which 
he lived for two days. Then his bad companion deserted him, leaving 
him alone in a dark forest. As he sat there he heard a tiger, a fox, 
and a wolf holding converse together, and learnt that two neighbouring 
trees had the power of giving ears to the earless and eyes to the blind ; 
that the bones of a certain rich man's black dog could bring back the 
dead to life ; and that a hill not far off contained a mass of gold as 
large as a horse's head. Before long he had obtained from the trees 
new eyes and ears, and from the hill the mass of gold, with which he 
bought the rich man's black dog. By means of its bones he restored 
to life a Khan, who gratefully bestowed upon his reviver his daughter 
and half of his cattle. So he became rich and prosperous. One day 
his former companion came to see him, found out the secret of his 
recovery and prosperity, and said," O my Good One, take me to the 
dark, dense forest and leave me there ! Perchance to me, as well as 
to thee, may it be given to become a man of mark. Thy two eyes did 
I take from thee, both thine ears did I take, and I left thee in the 
forest ; there didst thou become a right fortunate man. Now then do 

• Probcn der Volkslitteratur der tiirkischen Stamme Sud-Siberiens, iii. 344. 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 91 

thou also put out my two eyes, cut off both my ears, and take me to 
the forest where I left thee, and leave me there." So the good man 
did as he was requested, and the earless, eyeless bad man remained in 
the forest alone. But when " the fox, the wolf, and the tiger, all three 
together, examined the interior of the forest, there, at a certain spot, 
they found the bad man, and they all three ate him up. ' From good 
comes good, and from evil comes evil,' said they all three, and ate him 
up." 

This story is very popular in Russia, Afanasief giving in his 
collection no less than seven different variants of it. In the in- 
troduction to one of these (i. 10) considerable modern additions to 
the original narrative have been made. Two wayfarers dispute as to 
whether it is better to live honestly or dishonestly, and refer the 
question to three men whom they successively meet on the way. The 
first is a peasant who is ploughing his lord's land. He affirms that it 
is impossible for rustics to live honestly, for if they do not use deceit 
their masters will work them so hard that they will have no time to 
give to their own fields. The next person they meet is a merchant, 
who gives his opinion that in commerce dishonesty is much better than 
honesty — " People cheat us, and we cheat also." Next comes a species 
of law clerk, and he also decides in favour of dishonesty, adding M For 
honesty they'll send you to Siberia, saying you're a pettifogger." In 
spite of all this the upholder of honesty still maintains his opinion, but 
all goes ill with him. After a time, in order to get a morsel of bread, 
he is obliged to allow his antagonist to blind him. In his distress he 
prays to God: " O Lord, desert not me, thy sinful servant 1" Then a 
voice is heard from heaven telling him what to do in order to recover 
his eyesight. After this the story proceeds in the usual way. 

Next in importance to the Moral and Mythological Stories come the 
numerous tales which appear to have had no higher purpose than to 
amuse their hearers, or at most to exercise their ingenuity. Riddles 
were always extremely popular in the East, and some of the stories 
turning upon their use hare made their way westward. From the same 
quarter, also, seem to have come a number of tales propounding some 
other kind of problem. A specimen of each class may be taken as 
illustrations of the effect produced by time and travel upon a story, of 



02 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

the extent to which its original incidents may be altered, and at the 
same time of the vitality which some stories possess, the tenacity 
with which they cling to an idea or an expression, even after it has 
become so much the worse for wear that the substitution of a new one 
might be expected. These specimens come from the West of Scotland, 
where tales which have been transmitted from Asia are likely to prove 
less intelligible than their variants in Eastern Europe. 

One of Mr. Campbell's Tales (No. 17b) is to the following effect. 
There were two brothers, each of whom had a son. One of them died, 
leaving his son to the other's care. When the orphan boy grew up, 
he dreamed one night of li the most beautiful lady there was in the 
world," and resolved to marry her. So he borrowed money from his 
uncle, and went in search of her. At length he found her in London, 
of which city her father was the Baillie, described his dream to her, and 
discovered that she also had dreamed of him. She told him to go 
home for a year, and then come back to marry her. He did as he was 
bid. And on his way to London the second time he met a Sassanach 
gentleman, who asked him why he was going there, saying that he was 
himself on his way to marry the Baillie of London's daughter. The 
lad replied : tl When I was there last I set a net in the street, and I 
am going to see if it is as I left it. If it is well, I will take it with me ; 
if not, I will leave it." Afterwards the two wayfarers came to a river, 
across which the Highlander carried the Sassanach. When they 
reached London the Sassanach gentleman went to the Baillie's house. 
There he described his Scotch fellow-traveller, particularly mentioning 
his absurd statement about the net. The girl guessed at once who the 
youth was. So she left her father's house and married her Highland 
lover. 

Now let us turn to a Russian variant of the tale (Afanasief, v. 49). 
There were once two merchants. The one lived at Moscow, the other 
at Kief. To the former was born a girl and to the latter a boy. And 
the two fathers agreed that the children should marry one another, so 
the two infants were formally betrothed, the boy's father paying down 
a large sum of money as a pledge. Eighteen years passed by, and no 
further intercourse took place between the two merchants. At the end 
of that time the Moscow man, hearing nothing from his Kief friend, 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 93 

promised his daughter's hand to a colonel. Just about Lnat time the 
Kief merchant sent his son to Moscow to look after his betrothed. On 
the way he came to a river over which there was a difficulty in cross- 
ing. At that moment up came a stranger, who turned out to be the 
colonel who was to marry the Moscow merchant's daughter. " Why 
are you going to Moscow ?" asked the colonel. u There is a lake 
there," replied the youth. " In that lake eighteen years ago, my father 
set a snare. And now he has sent me there with these directions : 
1 If a duck has fallen into the snare, then bring away the duck ; but 
if there be no duck, then bring back the snare.' " After which he 
enabled the colonel to cross the river. On his arrival in Moscow the 
colonel went to the merchant's house, where he described the youth 
and his riddle. The girl guessed who the youth was, and sent her 
maid to inquire after him. When she had ascertained that he was 
really her betrothed, she said to her father, " Your proposed bride- 
groom does not suit me ; I have my old sweetheart here. With his 
father were hands struck together, was an agreement made fast." So 
the colonel was sent away, and the betrothed children became man 
and wife. 

The commencement of the Russian form of the story is evidently far 
more reasonable than that of the Gaelic, the betrothal of the children 
giving a better reason for the girl's behaviour than the double dream. 
And so is its termination. For the Russian father gives his consent to 
his daughter's marriage in consequence of an appeal to his conscience. 
But the Baillie of London is tricked into giving his daughter away. 
" It is the law of this country," said that young lady to her lover, 
" that no one must be married unless the Baillie himself gives her by 
the hand to her bridegroom." And this the Baillie is induced to do, 
unaware that the disguised damsel whom he gives away is his daughter. 
This finale, as well as the incident of the double dream, seems to be 
due to another Eastern tale. One of the stories of the Tooti Nameh 
(24th Evening) tells how the infant son of one vizier was betrothed to 
the infant daughter of another. And the children grew up together, 
and studied in the same school. But. just as their wedding was about 
to take place, the King ordered the girl's father to give her in marriage 
to one of his officials. The lovers were in despair. But there was an 



94 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

old custom of the country, in accordance with which a bride, on the 
evening of her wedding day, was expected to go out to a certain holy 
place, and there to remain alone and pray. Advantage was taken of 
this by the lovers, the bride escaped from the holy place, her brother 
having disguised himself in her wedding garments and passed himself 
off for her, and all went well. 

The other Scotch story is that told by an old man to the three 
brothers of the tale of "The Inheritance " (Campbell, No. 19). Two 
lovers were betrothed, but poverty postponed their marriage. Mean- 
time the girl's father compelled her to marry a rich suitor. On the 
wedding- night the bridegroom found the bride in tears, and asked her 
why she wept. She " told him all about it, and how she was pledged 
to another man." Whereupon he took her in her wedding-dress, and 
left her at the house of her betrothed. But he, not to be outdone in 
generosity, fetched a priest, and in his presence, " loosed the woman 
from the pledge she had given, and he gave a line of writing that she 
was free, and he set her on the horse and said : ' Now return to thy 
husband.' " On her way back she was stopped by three robbers in a 
wood. But when they had heard her story one of them said : " Come, 
as the others have done this, I will take you to your home myself." 
And he kept his word, refusing, moreover, to take the money she offered 
him ; but his companions took it instead. The three brothers to 
whom this story was narrated had been left a sum of gold by their father, 
who ordered them to divide it fairly among them. But, before the 
division could take place, one of them stole the whole of it. The old 
man, being requested to name the thief, told the story of the betrothed 
lovers to the three brothers, and then asked them which of the actors 
in it had behaved the best. The eldest decided in favour of the hus- 
band who gave up his wife to her betrothed, and the second in favour 
of the betrothed who restored her to her husband. But the youngest 
said that " the wisest of all were the robbers who got the money." 
Whereupon the old man decided that the youngest brother must be 
the thief. 

This story, as Dr. Reinhold Kohler has pointed out, is merely a 
well-known Eastern romance which occurs in the Arabian Nights, the 
Forty Viziers, the Tooti Naineh, and elsewhere ; and Prof. Benfey has 




NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 95 

indicated (Gott. gel. Anz. 1858, pt. 55) the Sanskrit originals both of 
the story and the framework in which it is set. In the Turkish Tooti 
Nameh (Rosen, i. 243) it takes the following form. 

A man who was carrying a jewel as a present to a king was robbed 
of it on the way. His suspicions fell upon three of his travelling com- 
panions, but he said nothing to them about his loss. When the king's 
daughter heard what had happened, she sent for those three men, and 
told them a story. In Damascus, she said, once lived a fair maiden, 
who so greatly admired a rose which she saw one day in a garden, 
that she promised she would grant any wish expressed by the person 
who should obtain it for her. Thereupon the gardener brought her 
the rose, and said his wish was that she would visit him in the 
garden upon her wedding day, after the marriage ceremony was over. 
And she promised so to do. After a while she was married, and, 
when the ceremony was over and she was left alone with her hus- 
band, she told him of her promise to the gardener. Thereupon 
he, " into whose mind falsehood and deceit had never entered," 
told her to keep her promise, but to come back quickly. So she 
went forth in her wedding array, covered with gold and jewels, to 
the garden, where the gardener was impatiently awaiting her arrival. 
On the way she successively encountered a wolf which wanted to eat 
her and a robber who wanted to plunder her. But first to the beast 
and then to the man she told the story of her promise, and how her 
husband had given her leave to keep it. And the minds of the wolf 
and the robber were so affected by her tale that each of them allowed 
her to pass on untouched. So she reached the garden safely, and told 
the gardener what had occurred. And when he had heard of her 
husband's respect for her plighted word, and of the generous abstinence 
of the wolf and the robber, he also was touched and respectfully 
escorted her back unharmed to the dwelling of her husband, with 
whom she lived happily ever after. Having told this story to the three 
travellers, the princess asked which of the actors in it seemed to them 
to have behaved the best. Then one replied that the wolf must have 
been old and toothless, otherwise it would have been mere folly on its 
part to let slip such a prey; and another said that the robber must 
have been an utter idiot to act as he did ; and the third expressed a 



96 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

similar opinion with respect to the gardener. Whereupon the princess 
came to the just conclusion that men who could give utterance to such 
sentiments must be capable of theft, and had doubtless stolen their 
fellow-traveller's jewel. 

Many other similar instances might be brought forward of stories 
now current in different parts of Europe as folk-tales, preserved by- 
oral tradition, which were centuries ago written down in Asia and 
imbedded in books. But those which have been given will serve to 
show how much caution must be exercised by collectors and commen- 
tators ; how necessary it is to compare many versions of a story, and 
to trace it up, so far as is possible, to its original form, before attempt- 
ing to decipher its meaning, or to decide on its evidence questions 
relating to the early history of the people among whom it is found. 

Before taking leave of the subject, let us attempt a rough classifica- 
tion of the contents of the best known of all collections of folk- tales, 
that of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Of the 200 stories which it con- 
tains,* 103 may be styled non-mythological, although many of them 
deal with supernatural beings, and some of them are evidently based 
upon myths. Of these 103, we may call 50 comic. The largest 
groups into which the comic tales separate are one of thirteen stories 
about simpletons, mostly of the Gothamite class ; and another of nine, 
describing various forms of trickery. There are five exaggeration 
tales of the Munchausen type ; four jests about women ; four stories 
explaining the origin of some animal peculiarity or the like ; and 
three jokes about laziness. The remaining twelve may be arranged 
under nine different headings. The class of what may be called 
" ingenious devices" contains eight stories, most of which are unim- 
portant. To the didactic or moral branch may be assigned forty-three 
tales. Of these eleven are animal tales ; five belong to the " grateful 
beasts" cycle ; and five to the group of stories in which good and bad 
conduct are contrasted and recompensed ; two are in praise of filial 
reverence and two of industry ; and two show that " murder will out." 
The remaining sixteen illustrate as many different wise saws or moral 

* Exclusive of the Appendix of ten Kindcrleganden, and also of the variants 
given in Bd. III. 



NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 97 

axioms. There are also two robber tales, which demand a separate 
place. 

If we turn to the far more important mythological division, we find 
that its ninety-seven tales may be arranged as follows : — The heading 
of " Husk Myths " may be given to a group of ten stories, of a species 
which has already been described, two of them telling the tale of 
Beauty and the Beast, and two that of the Frog Spouse. Various 
metamorphoses, of a different character from the changes of shape 
described in the '• Husk Myths," form the subject of thirteen other 
transformation stories. With these two groups may be classed, under 
the general heading of a Magic and Witchcraft," twelve tales, in which 
the actors employ spells, or are assisted by such magic implements as 
seven-leagued boots and the like, or by such magic helpers as Fine-Ear 
and his associates. To the group of tales for which the heading of 
" Eclipse Myths " has been suggested may be assigned sixteen stories. 
Three of these narrate the similar adventures of Cinderella and Aller- 
leirauh, and four those of the Sleeping Beauty. More than once occur 
also the stories of the heroines, whom, for the sake of convenience, we 
may style the " Calumniated Wife " and the " Supplanted Bride," 
and of the brilliant being who for a time hides from sight the splendour 
of " Goldenlocks." As probable nature-myths there may be classed 
with these stories of eclipse four tales relating to destruction and 
restoration — tales in which the dead are brought to life, or the old 
are made young. In almost all mythological stories demons, or wizards 
and witches connected with demons, naturally play a part. But in 
some of them the demon, or his human representative, figures so pro- 
minently that it may be convenient to draw them up under his 
banner. They refer, of course, to female as well as male demoniacal 
beings, but for the moment we may assume that the demon is of the 
male sex. Of such u Demon Stories" we have at present thirty-one to 
deal with. These may be arranged in groups referring to such subjects 
as the following : The Demon's Abode, as in Beanstalk Stories wherein 
the heroes who seek him or his victims have to climb, or as in tales 
about hostile dwarfs whom they have to follow underground ; or his 
physical characteristics, such as his possessing Three Golden Hairs, or 
being one-eyed like Polyphemus, or " having no heart in his body " 



98 NOTES ON FOLK-TALES. 

like Punchkin ; or his tendency to annoy -women, who are like Andro- 
meda exposed, or like Rapunzel immured, or like Proserpine carried 
off. But the largest group will always be that of tales referring to the 
demon's struggles with mankind, in which he is ultimately worsted, 
being either destroyed, or at least robbed, tricked, or otherwise humi- 
liated. Certain supernatural beings will probably require to be treated 
separately. The collection with which we are dealing, for instance, con- 
tains two stories about elves or fairies, and two about the Three Fates. 
There remain to be dealt with seven as yet unclassified tales. Two of 
them belong to the large class of stories about the dead. Two describe 
the career of Thumbling, a hero whose mythological significance has 
not yet been definitely ascertained ; * one refers to the puzzling myth of 
the Golden Goose ; one is based upon the belief that snakes have to do 
with treasures ; and one accounts for the existence of the Moon. The 
themes named in this rough approximation towards a classification are 
of course illustrated by many stories besides those assigned to each of 
them ; for almost all the tales deal with many subjects in addition to 
that which has been selected as their characteristic for classifying 
purposes. 

W. R. S. RALSTON. 



* A strong case in favour of his being identified with a small star known as 
the " Conductor " of " Charles's Wain," has been made out by M. Gaston Paris, 
in his excellent monograph entitlod " Le Petit Poucet et la Grande Oursc. 
(Paris, 1875.) 



THE FOLK-LOEE OF FEANCE 




HE folk-lore of a nation comprehends all the "culture," 
if the term may be used, that the people has created 
out of its own resources. The official religion, and 
the printed or written literature of a people, may have 
their germs in what was once folk-lore, in the store of ideas and 
traditions which, as far as our knowledge goes, may be called uni- 
versal. There is a point at which we lose ourselves in the attempt 
to trace usages and stories to their source. We cannot even guess 
how the human fancy first invented these possible seeds of all my- 
thology, the marchen or nursery tales which we heard from our 
own nurses, which are taken from the mouths of the crones of 
savage tribes, and which meet us again, transfigured and splendid, in 
the highest poetry of the German and Celtic races, or are breathed to 
us " softly, through the flutes of the Grecians." When one investigates 
the folk-lore of a modern nation like France, one asks (1) how much 
do the people of the nation retain of the primitive store ; (2) how have 
they handled it, what impress of the peculiar national genius have 
they lent to ideas which are common to them with the rest of the 
world ? Thus in France it is desirable to study the poetry of the 
people, the ballads handed from mother to child, without break, from 
an antiquity in which no one cared to know or remember the name of 
the author. How much of this treasure of ballads is common to 
other European peoples, and what again is the peculiar note of 
French, as distinguished from Komaic, Spanish, Scotch, Danish, Ger- 
man, and other folk-songs? The same question occurs as to marchen 
or fairy tales. Are the fairy tales of France refined and courtly, as 
they might be if borrowed from Perrault's and Madame D'Aulnoy's 

h 2 



100 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

collections, or are they homely, like the Irish and Scotch nursery 
legends; or grandiose, imaginative, and confused, like the Gaelic 
stories; or humorous and kindly, like those which Sir G. Dasent trans- 
lated from the Norse; or savage, like Castren's Samoyede examples; or 
full of such strange seven-headed monsters as the Slavonic narrators 
delight in? How many of the old " radicals " or fictitious "formula}" 
noted by Von Halm and others remain? "What has the native 
French taste added to or taken away from the mdrchen as Tartars and 
Zulus, and modern and ancient Greeks know or knew them ? Ques- 
tions of the same sort present themselves when we think of super- 
stitious beliefs and superstitious ceremonies. How much is borrowed 
from the Church by the people, what has the people lent to the 
Church, what remains of the earliest rituals and of the observances of 
fetishism, of paganism, of solar worship, or of the cult of animals? 
If we had knowledge and skill enough we might find, in the study of 
these problems, the spiritual history of the French people. We 
should see them in their points of contact with other examples of 
humanity, from the naked Maori to the English peasant. We should 
be able to say to what extent the people are really impressed by the 
teaching of the learned classes and the priesthood. We should even 
know how far the character of the natives of one part of France 
differs from that of the natives of another district; we should detect 
the influence of the Provencal and the Teutonic genius, of the Celt 
and of the Iloman. In this place, and with the rather scanty mate- 
rials at command, it is only possible to sketch a work on French 
folk-lore. 

Superstitious Usages. 

In considering the native culture of a people, it is perhaps least 
unscientific to begin with religion or superstition. The French pea- 
sant is religious enough au fond, and politicians are only beginning 
to teach him to vote against the cure. It is not, however, of the 
official but of the traditional religion and ritual that we have to think 
at this moment. The two things, it is true, arc hard to disentangle. 
Not easily can one determine in every case whether the Church 
borrowed some rural rite from popular paganism, or whether popular 




THE FOLK-LORE OF FRAlsTE. 101 

paganism distorted and degraded the ceremony of the Church. 
For example, when the cure of a little Breton village leads his cho- 
risters, in a solemn procession, on Saint Anne's Day, and devoutly 
burns an old boat, to the prow of which a serpent is made fast, 
whether is the sacrifice kept up in memory of Saint Anne, or to 
appease the shadow of some earlier serpentine godhead ? It is diffi- 
cult always to decide, but one may be sure that the ceremonies of 
Saint John's Eve, at least, have no necessary connection with Saint 
John. Many English people have seen Jules Breton's picture of the 
sturdy peasant girls dancing round the smoke and fire, — the fire of 
which the sacred seeds were handed down by the earliest religion. 
The night of Saint John is haunted in all the popular songs by young 
men and maidens straying home from the fires that once were lit to a 
god no kindlier than Moloch. Some forty years ago a girl was 
actually burned to death in one of those rondes. The sentiment of 
the volks-lieder lingers gladly on chance meetings in the midsummer 
twilight, when the lover sees the beloved on the dim banks of the 
river, and sings to her — 

" beau pommier, beau pommier, 

Qu'est si charge de fleurs, 
Que mon cceur d'amour. 

II ne faut qu'un petit vent 
Pour envoler ces fleurs, 

II ne faut qu'un jeune amant 
Pour me gagner le coeur." 

Superstitions of the usual sort are attached to other great days of 
the Church. The water that flows from the wells while the bells ring 
on Easter Day is supposed to have a magical virtue. The sun him- 
self dances on Easter morn, and the golden and scarlet hues of dawn 
are taken to be the wings of exultant angels. The beliefs connected 
with the dead are of the ordinary kind. The mattress on which any 
one dies is to be burned, sometimes at cross-roads ; the water in the 
house must be poured out of pitchers and glasses (as among the 
Jews), lest the flying soul drown itself. In some places in the depart- 
ment of the Vosges, the ashes of the burned mattress are allowed to 
lie on the ground all night, and, if in the morning the trace of a foot- 



102 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

step is found among them, it is supposed that the dead has returned, 
perhaps to declare that he is in purgatory, and to demand the prayers 
of his friends. When one adds to these beliefs the custom of sacri- 
ficing a cock when a family takes possession of a new house, it is plain 
that remains of very early " animistic " and religious ideas survive 
among the peasantry. As to the superstition about the difficulties 
which attend the flight of souls, it certainly existed in the South of 
France in the seventeenth century. Thus in UExamen de las Super- 
sticius, a theological tract, the penitent is asked whether he has ever 
removed the roof from a sick man's hut, that the soul might more 
easily fly away ! 

An immense number of French superstitious practices differ only 
in name from those recorded in English books like that of Brand. 
Call the yule log cosse de Nau, and translate the usages connected 
with the yule log into French, and you have something very like 
M. Laisnel de la Salle's first chapter on Fetes Populaires (Croyances 
et Legendes du Centre de la France. Paris, 1875). M. de la Salle 
connects these Christmas rites with the Aryan worship of Agni, but they 
are human rather than Aryan, and may be found in Peru as well as 
in Berry. French Christmas carols are pretty enough, and in tone 
much resemble our own popular ditties of the sacred season. Thus 
the shepherd sings — 

" Colin, au milieu de la unit 
Je vois le soleil qui reluit; 
II semble que tout reverdit." 

The soleil may be the Christian or the secular sun, and the feast of 
the winter solstice with its heathen observances was easily converted 
into the most solemn festival of the Christian year. The Noels or 
Christmas carols make some confusion between the two religions. It 
is superfluous to add that the dumb animals are supposed to have the 
power of speech on Christmas eve. As for le bamf gras, M. de la 
Salle finds him in Chinese religion no less than in that of Berry. Not 
race, but the natural allegorical rites with which men celebrate the 
return of spring, the hope of harvest, the memory of the dead, all the 
chief events of the solar year, and of mundane life, produce these re- 



THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 103 

semblances in ritual. In France the Church has lent a Christian 
colour to a dozen survivals of fetishism and nature-worship, and mere 
primitive custom. The feast of les brandons is still purely rustic, — it is 
the lustration of the fields. Thus Tibullus says, " Gods of our land, 
faithful to the ancient rites which our fathers bequeathed to us, we 
purify our fields, our fruits, — do ye deign to drive all evil from our 
dwelling ; destroy the tares among the wheat," and so forth. The 
lustration is performed by French peasants on the first Sunday in 
Lent. Soon after sunset all the people of a village rush through 
closes, meadows, and vineyards, armed with lighted torches, till hill 
and plain seem to swarm with will-o'-the-wisps. There are many 
ditties which are sung at this ceremony. 

" Taupes et mulots 

Sortez de mes clos, 
Ou je vous casse les os." 

Now this ceremony is, in conception, magical. Fire and song are 
to consecrate the crops, and drive away spiritual and mortal forms of 
evil. The sorcerers of the New Caledonian tribes take similar pre- 
cautions in the new-sown plots of yam and taro roots. The Romans 
had the rite, as we have seen, and the thing to notice is, that, while 
the people of Berry preserve the essence of the primeval ceremony, 
they have added to the songs, in the mocking spirit of gauloiserie y a 
satire against the cures. Moles, toads, moths are addressed thus— 

" Laissez pousser nos bles 

Courez cheux les cures 
Dans leurs caves vous auriez 
A boire autant qu'a manger." 

Here, then, we have a typical instance of the value of the study of 
folk-lore. You see the element of human sameness, the unchanging 
character of the peasant's life, the same narrow round of hopes and fears 
in which men move to-day, as four thousand years ago— men modern 
and ancient, men savage and men civilised. On the other hand, you 
see the element of national difference, the mocking, revolutionary spirit 
of France, as displayed in the satire on the poor cures, whose store, after 
all, could not support many moles or resist much mildew. Like most 



104 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

rural feasts, that of les brandons ends with a distribution of sacred cakes, 
like the liba of the Romans, and the cakes of Leviticus ii. 7, and 
of the Hindoos. Corn and bread seem to have so strongly impressed 
the early imagination with their mystic significance, that they enter, 
according to the Pere Lafitau, into the marriage service of the Iro- 
quois, as into the sacrament of the Christian. One might occupy the 
whole space of this article with a mere enumeration of the rural feasts 
of boughs, of the remnants of the worship of trees, of customs 
connected with Easter eggs, of the dances in which girls scatter 
flowers of spring, and chant an ancient ballad burden, whereof the 
meaning is lost, so that only the words " grand soule, p'tit soule " 
(great sun, and little sun) can be understood. 

One must be content with a reference to M. Laisnel de la Salle's 
collection of facts (his theories, like all our theories, must be received 
with hesitation), and to the rural novels of George Sand. There the 
curious can read about the fees, or fairies; the gi'andc-bete—n 
shapeless flying terror of the night; the spectres who wash dead 
men's bodies by moonlight ; the were-wolves; and le meneur des loups, 
a wizard whom the wolves follow in his darkling walks; the herbe qui 
egare, a herb with powers the reverse of those attributed to the 
Homeric moly, being a plant of which the fragrance turns the traveller 
from his path. Here you learn how to guard your health from witch- 
craft ; how to see a vision of your future husband ; where " Arthur's 
hunt" may be met; where the Druid stones dance round the Virgin 
Mary ; — information about all these matters and their ancient ana- 
logues M. Laisnel de la Salle has compiled. His book is more interest- 
ing than Melusine, a useful collection of folk-lore edited by MM. 
Gaidoz and Holland. He studies in a scientific spirit the facts 
which George Sand observed with romantic curiosity. 

French Ballads or Volkslieder. 

France is a country which we might expect to be particularly rich 
in popular songs. The people are not only a singing but a dancing 
people, and a ballad, as its name implies, was originally a song 
chanted as an accompaniment of the dance. Even now numbers of 



THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 105 

rondes are danced by the country people, who accompany themselves 
with words which, as a rule, have little meaning. Here is a very 
fair specimen of the ronde : 

" A la claire fontaine 
Devant le palais clu Roi 
II vint trois demoiselles, 
Se baigner devant moi 
Rossignol n'a pas d'amonr 
Chantons la nuit et le jour." 

Most rondes are as senseless as this ; they have always a great deal 

to say about "three girls to give away," about "three ducks," "three 

captains," and so forth. They seldom contain more than the germ of 

a story, in fact they have become childish, and have lost sentiment 

and significance. The popular muse of France must not be judged by 

the majority of extant dance-songs. More excellent ballads, mirthful 

or doleful, still survive from the time when, in default of written or 

printed literature, the people were their own poets. The ballad-store 

of France does not contain songs so spirited as Kinmont Willie or 

Dick of the Cow, or the other narrative poems of border war. The 

people were not so well off nor so well led as the ancestors of our 

Roxburghshire and Liddesdale farmers who " rode with the bold 

Buccleugh." Their chants are the expressions of a race of men always 

passive, if not always suffering. They made no raids, but raids 

enough were made on them by the English and the Companies. Of 

these misfortunes scarcely a trace remains in song, except perhaps in 

a long ballad which tells how an English king carried off a French 

maiden, who died, in answer to her prayer, on her bridal night. 

Again, the French ballads lack the superstitious as well as the 

adventurous spirit of the songs of Scotland, Denmark, and Greece. 

There is a Provencal ballad, indeed, on a theme widely known, that 

of the dead mother who returns to help her children, misused by a 

harsh stepmother. After seven years she goes back to the grave, 

the children following in a sad little procession. That apparition 

seems to me one of the most touching and " gruesome " in all ballad 

lore. 

" 'Twas late in the night and the bairns grat, 
The mother beneath the mouls heard that," 



106 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

says a scrap of a Yorkshire lay preserved by Emily Bronte. Miss 

Bronte did not know, perhaps, that the song of the mother's ghost was 

so widely spread — to Denmark and to sunny Provence. I have never 

had the good fortune to discover the remainder of the modern English 

song. The Provencal one is in the collection of M. Damase Arbaud. 

The superstition of metamorphosis into animal form is illustrated by 

the Normandy ballad of the White Doe. A mother walks with her 

daughter in the forest ; the girl confides to her that every ninth night 

she is turned into a white doe and pursued by her brother's hounds. 

Then the brother is brought on the scene, ignorant, of course, of his 

sister's trouble, and boasting that his hounds will catch the doe the 

next time they are laid on her track. His boast is fulfilled, and ho 

discovers too late "the maid's gold hair among the white deer's blood." 

I have translated this ballad into prose in an article on French Peasant 

Songs (Cornhill Magazine, May, 187G). Another even more gloomy 

ballad may be selected from M. de Puymaigre's Chants Populaires 

du Pays Messin : 

" La Damnee. 

" C'est d'une fille et d'un garcon, 
D'un gallon qui l'a bien aimee. 
Mais bientot sous lc vert gazon, 
La belle fille est interree. 

" Le garcon fit une priere 
A la bonne vierge Marie, 
Pour qu'elle lui fasse voir encore 
La belle qu'il a tant cherie. 

" II n'a pas fini sa priere 
Et voila la belle arrivee. 
Oh! la belle, la belle, ou avez vous ete 
Que vos Miches couleurs ont si fort change 

" Ce sont les diables et les enfers 
Qui ont ainsi ronge mes membrcs, 
Et cela pour un maudit peehe 
Que nous avons commis ensemble. 

" Oh, dites-moi, dites, ma mie, 
Ne peut on pas vous soulager, 
Avec quelqnes messes a dire 
Ou quelques vigiles a chanter ? 



THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 107 

" Oh ! non, mon bel ami, oh! non, 
Oh ! non, ne m'en faitcs point dire, 
Tant plus prieras ton dieu pour moi 
Et tant plus souffrirai nlartyre. 

" Oh, adieu done, adieu, ma mie, 
Puis qu'il faut ainsi vous quitter. 
A votre soeur Marguerite 
N'avez vous rien a envoy er? 

" Tu diras a ma sceur Marguerite 
Qu'elle ne fasse pas commc moi. 
Que jamais elle ne se promene 
Sur le soir dans les grands bois." 

Except these I have met no French ballads of deep superstitious 
gloom, and even the last of these seems coarse and creeping when 
compared to " Clerk Saunders," or to more than one of the Komaic 
folk-songs about " the dead that ride with speed," about Charon the 
terrible wrestler, and his gloomy home, whence none may escape. In 
the popular songs of the modern Greeks you find this wild poetry in 
its utmost perfection. It is the voice of a natur-volk unspoiled by 
civilization and yet capable of the highest culture. In France the 
peasant's fancy is stinted and curbed, yet, even in France, he often 
tells in his verse the same tale, and uses the same formulae, as the 
more intensely imaginative Scotch and Dane, as the Spaniard, 
as the Greek of Thessaly, or of the isles. The sameness of plot 
in the narrative ballads of European peoples is a very notable 
thing. It is remarkable, too, that the songs do not use the plots 
and incidents of the mcirchen (as a rule), but have a separate set 
of their own. 

What the favourite plots and situations are, I shall try to show 
from a few French examples. The ballad of John of Tours, or, as 
it is called in some variants, of Le Roi Renaud, is easily accessible 
to English readers, for Mr. Rossetti has translated it very admirably. 
A wounded man returns from the war, and in reply to the caresses 
of his mother, who tells him that his wife has borne a son, he only 
asks that his bed may be made. Then follows a second dialogue 
between the mother and daughter-in-law; the latter hears the pre- 



108 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

parations for her husband's burial, and her questions are put off with 
feigned answers. At last the mother cries: 

" Ma fille je ne puis le cacher 
Le Koi Renaud est decede ! " 

The wife dies of grief, or, in other versions, goes into a convent. 
Now it must be noticed that this ballad, with its three persons, and 
these couplets of questions and reply, is really a little drama. In 
the shape of a child's rhyme, it still survives, much mutilated, but 
recognisable in Scotland. — (Chambers's Popular Rhymes of Scotland '.) 

Now turn from the puerile sing-song of the Lowlands to Brittany, 
and you find the lay of the Seigneur Nann, who returns to his wife in 
evil case, not after a lost battle, but after repelling the love of a fairy. 
The dialogue between the wife and the mother-in-law follows as a 
matter of course. (Villemarque, Barzaz Breiz, i. p. 43.) Brittany 
thus retains a mark of a famous and very primitive superstition, the 
belief in the deadly love of the spectral forest women. So wide-spread 
is this superstition, that a friend of mine declares he has met with it 
among the savages of New Caledonia, and has known a native who 
actually died, as he himself said he would, after meeting one of the 
fairy women of the wild wood. In Le Roi Renaud, then, we have 
the intermediate form of a popular song. It has not sunk to the 
decadence of its surviving Scotch form, — it has lost the tragic aber- 
glaube which the Celtic memory preserves. In the villages, where Le 
Roi Renaud has become Jean Renaud, a wounded soldier, we see, 
perhaps, the degradation of the legend. The same plot is found in 
the Venetian folk-song " Conte Anzolin," where the hero is neither 
wounded in war nor bewitched by a fairy, but simply bitten by a mad 
dog ! I owe these variants to M. de Puymaigre {Chants Populaircs 
dans le Pays Messin), The legend is not found, to my knowledge, 
in German, Danish, or Romaic popular song, but probably other 
readers may have met with it in these languages. 

The ballad of Germaine (Puymaigre) turns on the most widely 
spread of all fictitious motives - the motive of the Odyssey — the return 
of a long-lost husband to his faithful wife, who does not recognize him 



THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 109 

and dreads imposture. This situation, with features curiously like 
those of the meeting of Odysseus and Penelope, is found in the folk- 
lore of China. Penelope, Germaine, and the Chinese lady are all 
incredulous and demand a sign. 

" Loyez, loyez, Germaine, 
Pour Dieu, votre mari ! 

Encor n'y croirais-je pas 
Que vous etes mon mari 
On Men vous me direz 
Quel jour je fus epousee. 

J'ai epouse Germaine 
Le matin, le lundi. 

Encor ne croirais-je pas 
Que vous etes mon mari, 
Ou bien vous me direz, 
Ce qui m'est arrive. 

C'est arrive, Germaine, 
Que votre anneau rompit ; 

En voila la moitie, 
Montre la votre aussi. 

Ouvrez, ouvrez, Germaine, 
Ouvrez a votre ami." 

7 Q,s ap €(j>rj iroaios ireipufxevn, we might go on, in the words of the 
scene of recognition in the Odyssey (xxiii. 181). We may be tolerably 
sure that the return of Odysseus to Penelope was the theme of a 
rustic lay like Germaine, among the early Achseans, before the author 
of the Odyssey made it the chief thread in his divine poem. Folk- 
songs indeed are the " wild stock " whence the epic and the artistic 
lyric sprang. They are far older than the most ancient poetry of 
Greece, just as the wild white rose represents an earlier type of 
flowers than the complex blossoms of the garden. In a volume which I 
have not seen, but which is quoted by M. de Puymaigre, the modern Eo- 
maic lay on the return of the husband is printed (Chants Populaires de 
la Grece, translated by Marcellus). The motive is found in Tyrolese 
and German ballads. One may remark, in taking leave of Germaine, 
that it contains a trait of very primitive hospitality, well known to the 
student of savage manners. Survivals of that sort are rather rare in 



110 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

French popular songs; here are two verses, however, which might have 
been taken from a Bulgarian pesma. 

Votre amant s'est marie 

Avec line Flamande; 

Elle n'est pas si richc que vous, 

Mais elle est plus puissante. 

Elle fait venir le soldi 

A minuit dans sa chambre, 

Elle fait bouiller la marmite 

Sans feu et sans rente. 

(Puyraaigre, p. 31.) This familiarity with the sun and this magical 
skill are common enough among Bulgarian girls, if one may trust the 
ballads in M. Dozon's interesting collection. La Maitresse Captive is 
the French form of the Gay Goss-haivk in the Border Minstrelsy. A 
girl pretends to be dead, that she may be carried by her kinsmen to 
the chapel where she is to meet her lover : 

Le fils du roi passant par la 
Crie tout haut;— Cures, arretez, 
C'est ma mie que vous emportez, 
Ah, laissez moi la regarder. 
II prit ses ciseaux d'or fin 
Et decousit ses draps de lin ; 
Mais pendant qu'il les decousait 
Voila la belle le reconnait. 

There has been a good deal of natural scepticism about the ballads 
which, like the Gay Goss-hawk, were published by Scott. Either 
he himself or the people who furnished him with copies often 
dressed up the fragments, and inserted original lines and couplets. 
It may be taken for almost certain, however, that when Scott 
gives us a ballad of which variants exist in French, Danish, and 
Romaic, the groundwork, at least, of that poem is a genuine por- 
tion of the popular store common to the people in all European 
countries. How the store of legends and of poetical formula' came 
to be thus the general inheritance of the peasant it is not now possi- 
ble to guess. Like the problem of the origin and dispersion of 
marchen, the mystery must be left to Time, " which discovers all 
things." Did the Scotch borrow The Bonny Hind (giving that 
appalling song a tragic gloom it does not possess in France) from 



THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. Ill 

L'Epreuve (Puymaigre, pp. 54, ,59) ? That hypothesis does not 
account for the presence of the same simple and terrible situation in 
the Finnish epic the Kalewala. Or shall we say that the popular 
imagination naturally caught at the most moving yet obvious themes 
which are everywhere equally powerful to awaken terror and compas- 
sion ? That theory does not account for the verbal resemblance be- 
tween lienaud et ses Quatorze Femmes and the Scotch May Colvin, 
which have their parallels in Breton, Venetian, Piedmontese, German, 
Wendish, Bohemian, and Servian ballad-poetry. 

Are we to say that the legends are based on some historical fact, 
and spread through Europe from a common centre ? To take a more 
lively example — did we borrow Billy Taylor from the French, or did 
the French first sing of the betrayed and revengeful maiden ? 

Deriere cheux nous 

Y est un capitaine 
[Billy Taylor was a fine young fellow, 

Full of mirth and full of glee], 
Qui tous les jours 

M'entretient de ses amours., 
[And his mind he did discover 
To a maiden fair and free]. 
The legend pursues its course. The capitaine loves and rides 
away, but the lady follows him to the army and provokes him to a 

duel ; 

" Ah oui, ah oui, 

lis ont bien pris les armes, 
Ah oui, ah oui, 

lis ont bien combattu, 
Mais la fillette, 

Qu'etait encor jeunette 
Mais la fillette 

Mit son amant a mort." 

In fact " she shot young Billy Taylor." " And the king, when he 

came for to hear of it, very much applauded what she had done," but 

it does not appear that he made her " first lieutenant of the gallant 

Thunder-bomb." 

" Le roi si bon 
Y accord a son pardon." 

The adventure is said to exist in Sclavonic poetry. Speaking of coin- 



112 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

cidences, it may be worth noticing that the " Fause Foodrage," the 
traitor in a Scotch ballad, seems to recur as the Fordresse of a song 
in which a villain kills his mistress, 

" J'ai tue ma pastourelle, 
La plus belle fille du pays." 

M. Auricoste de Lazarque suggests that " Fordresse," in the lips of 
German girls, is " an alteration of faux-traitre, words which are often 
repeated in popular songs and stories." 

Before leaving the ballad poetry of France, it may be well to draw 
attention to the vast number of songs of the army, and of songs about 
deserters. As in Russia, the conscription has greatly exercised the muse 
of the people. Another large class of ballads deals with the adventures 
of pretty shepherdesses, who get the better of adventurous knights. 
These songs may be derived from the j^stoiwelles of the thirteenth 
century, of which Bartsch has published a collection ; or ancient popu- 
lar songs of this kind may have given the key-note to the artistic 
poets who brought pastourelles into fashion. Taking French ballads 
as a whole, counting rondes, lullabies, marriage-songs, and the songs 
of the labourers, one finds a good deal of babbling gaiety, some trace 
of dreary superstition, much love of the spring, and of the songs of 
birds, scattered memories of the oppression of the ancien regime, and, 
now and again, an accent of deeper melancholy and weariness of 
labour. Thus, in the labourer's song: — 

Qu'il pleue, qu'il vente, qu'il neige, 

Orage on autre temp, 
On voit toujours sans cesse 

Le laboureur aux champs. 

Lc pauvre laboureur 

N'ayant que deux enfants 
Les a mis a la charrue 

A l'age de dix ans. 

{Melusine, col. 458, 459.) 

You must not ask this people for the rich sentiment or the patri- 
otic war-song of the Greek mountaineer, for the tragedy that cap- 
tivates the fancy, and the riding-song that stirs the blood, of the Scot, 



THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 113 

by the "dowie dene of Yarrow," or by the "wan water" that Buccleugh 
swam at the head of his horsemen. The French peasant sings little of 
the deeds of knights and princes, whom he does not love, but is busy 
with the scanty experience of his own life, his brief years of youth, 
his long acquaintance with labour, his fear of the final doom, 

" Tant plus prieras ton Dieu pour moi 
Et tant plus souffrirai martyre." 

Popular Tales. 
The popular tales of France, the mdrchen which France shares with 
most other known peoples, have not yet, so far as I am aware, been 
collected and published with method and system. For some years the 
story of Tord-chene, in Les Filles de Feu of Gerard de Nerval, was 
the only rustic version of a French mdrchen which I had the fortune 
to meet with. In the old collections of Perrault and of Madame 
D'Aulnoy the characters have been attired in court dress, and it is 
not always possible to tell what the writers have borrowed directly 
from Italian or Eastern sources, nor to distinguish the literary 
inventions from the genuine traditions. Even now I am only ac- 
quainted with the contes published in Me'lusine, and with that very 
charming book of M. Deulin's, Les Contes du Roi Gambrinus. Now 
M. Deulin does not conceal the fact that he has told his stories (which 
at bottom are real traditional tales) in his own way. A most amusing 
and agreeable way it is; still it is plainly impossible to draw any 
scientific conclusion from Les Contes du Roi Gambrinus. The mdrchen 
in Me'lusine, on the other hand, profess to be derived from the lips of 
the people. The narrators, however, were not, in all cases, quite 
unsophisticated. You must go, with Mr. Campbell, to Barra, or 
" where the great peaks look abroad over Skye to the westernmost 
islands," if you want to get the real article uncorrupted by any 
memory of literature. From Turkish old women too, from 
Von Halm's Albanians, from Castren's Samoyedes, unsophisti- 
cated tales may be obtained. From all such natural people, the 
mdrchen comes undiluted, but it is easily seen that even Herr 
Schmidt's Ithacan and Cephalonian story-tellers have heard, how- 
ever vaguely, and remember, however indistinctly, fragments of 



114 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

the higher mythologies and of artistic fiction. Thus we must not 
hastily generalise about many of the Breton stories, even though 
M. Luzel reports them. There is a notable distinction, too, between 
Breton and French, for which reason I have deliberately avoided 
much mention of native Breton songs and customs. In the matter of 
popular tales, however, we are not lucky enough to possess much 
material that is not Breton, and therefore the paper must be closed 
with a few remarks on the tales translated and published in Melusine 
by M. Luzel. In his Le Lievre, le Renard, et VOurs, one easily 
recognises a form of the common story about " grateful beasts." The 
peculiarity of the Breton form is its modernism. The characters are 
named Henri and Henori, and so on. They go to Paris and England, 
and they have adventures with rather common-place robbers. There 
is a touch of the usual spirit of cruel revenge, which is a mark of 
mdrchen, in the fiery punishment of the villain with which the story 
ends. (Melusine, col. 64.) Les Trois Fils du JRoi (Melusine, col. 65) 
is a variant of Puss in Boots. Here the successful youngest son has a 
hump-back, but he is none the less triumphant. 

In Jean de l'Ours (Melusine 110) we have that widely-known cha- 
racter of legend, the man whose father is a bear. The bear occurs 
in Danish royal pedigrees, and he is a totem or tribal father and 
friend in North America. Jean de l'Ours is a creature of huge 
strength, who is aided in his adventures by companions who have 
magical gifts. One can break mountains, another break oaks,' and so 
forth. This is a very ancient feature in primitive fiction, and its 
highest artistic form, as manipulated by poets, is- to be found in the 
Greek account of the companions of Jason and the Argonautic expe- 
dition. The framers of the cycle of Argo must apparently have am- 
plified and decorated certain data which are found, in a ruder form, 
among Finns and Samoyeds, as well as in the m&rchen of the unpro- 
gressive peasant class in European countries. A version of Jean de 
l'Ours is given by M. Dculin in his Contes du Eoi Gambrinus, The 
short fantastic story from Picardy (Melusine, col. 113) of the hump- 
backed man who lost his hump, and of the other deformed creature 
who had the lost hump added to his own protuberance, is known to 
exist in Japan. Hence arises a controversy ; some " story-comparers " 



THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 115 

hold that the tale is an Aryan one, carried to Japan from the West by 
traders, soldiers, or missionaries. As the Japanese legend, however, 
occurs in a chap-book, as a legendary explanation of a Japanese 
proverb, it seems to have a natural root in the soil. It is easy to see 
how, human nature being what it is, identical proverbs may thus 
spring up in nations without being borrowed. Then a tale to explain 
the proverb is called for, and thus the same story might be found in 
France and Japan, or in the planet Venus for that matter, if mortals 
like us inhabit the planet Venus. The ordinary theory about the 
transmission of Aryan mdrchen is thwarted by the extreme savagery of 
certain incidents found in the nursery tales of polished nations. There 
are the marks of fetishism, magic, and cannibalism in our own nur- 
sery legends, and, if these originally came from India, that country 
must either have been peopled by savages at the time when the stories 
were invented, or the mdrchen fell in Europe among savages who cor- 
rupted them. This prevalence of savage survivals among mdrchen, 
however, is only one of several facts, which I attempted to systematise 
in an article on Myths and Fairy Tales (Fortnightly Keview, May 
1872). This is not the place to go more deeply into the evidences. 
M. Luzel's story of " The Tailor and the Hurricane " is a humorous 
version of the well-known mdrchen of the mule that produced gold } 
and of the stick that automatically beat its master's enemies. When 
the Tailor goes to the home of the Winds, like Odysseus to the home 
of iEolus, the Hurricane comes in and as good as says : 

" Fee, fa, fo, f um, 

I smell the blood of an Englishman ;" 
or, 

" Je sens odeur de Chretien; il y a un Chretien ici, et il faut que je le mange. 

Had iEschylus any similar Greek story of ogres who smell out 
man's blood in his mind when he made the Eumenides detect 
Orestes and cry : 

II 'Offfi?) ftpoTeiwv aifidroiv fie irpoayeXq, ? " 

{Eumenides, 24-1.) Another Breton story, also humorous, and 
even broad in its gauloiserie, is Les Trois Freres, ou le Chat, le Coq, 

I 2 



116 THE FOLK-LORE OF FRANCE. 

et VEchelle. A poor man leaves his three sons no more than a cat, a 
cock, and a ladder. The eldest carried his cat to such a mouse-ridden 
country as Dick Whittington found. The owner of the cock dis- 
covers a land where (there being no cocks) the king every night sends 
chariots and horses to bring the dawn. The lad with the ladder makes 
himself agreeable to the imprisoned wife of a jealous lord, a sort of 
fabulously innocent Agnes, in a mythical Ecole de Maris. All three 
sons find fortunes and bonnes fortunes, and the marchen displays a 
jolly indifference to morality. The long story of Les Trots Filles de 
Boulanger mixes up the ancient fiction of a queen, who is accused of 
giving birth to puppies, with the " dancing water " and " singing 
apple " of the Arabian Nights. In all the popular stories in Melusine 
one detects a satiric humour and a kind of worldly wisdom which are 
the characteristics of French marchen. The fancy of Celts of the 
Continent is certainly most unlike the wild imagination of the West 
Highlanders. In their tales (collected by Mr. Campbell) the ancient 
Celtic genius projects fantastic shapes on a back-ground of mists. 
You have more than the strangeness of the Mabinogion, you have 
human fancy in its wildest expression, and withal, a sentiment, a 
poetry, not unworthy of the ancient bards. There is nothing of all 
this in the positive, commonplace French and Breton marchen, where 
fancy is stunted, and incredulous wit thrusts in its word now and then, 
or priests and popes are introduced hap-hazard among the figures of 
the earliest fiction. 

Looking back on the field of French folk-lore, we seem to detect 
more of primitive practice and superstitious usage than we have pre- 
served in England. France escaped the full force of the Reformation, 
and the Catholic Church has always been tolerant of the earlier rites 
which she sanctified, while Puritanism persecuted even the dances of 
May Day. In the matter of poetry, French peasants retain little of 
much value, except the traditional love-songs, which have often a 
touch of the idyllic sentiment of the Canticles. Both in poetry 
and story, the peasants of France show the imaginative defects of a 
people which has been long in contact with the hardest side, the 
harshest form of civilisation. Hence a somewhat sterile fancy, a 
certain vulgarity, a mordant humour, and a grain ol incredulity. 



THE FOLK-LOKE OF FRANCE. 117 

One misses the pleasant spontaneity and good nature of the Norse 
legends, the intensity of the Scotch ballad, the poetry of Celtic 
stories. 



Bibliography op French Folk-lore. 

Barzaz Breiz, Chants Populaires de la Bretagne, recueillis par M. 
de la Villemarque. Paris. Franck. 1846. 

Gwerzion Breiz Izel. Chants Populaires de la Basse Bretagne. M. 
F. Luzel. 1868, 1874. 

Le Revue Celtique. F. Vieweg. Paris. 

Melusine. Vieweg. Paris, 1877. 

Les Filles de Feu. Gerard de Nerval. Levy. Paris. Bulletin 
du Comite de la Langue, de VHistoire, et des Arts de la France. 
Poesies Populaires, Instructions du Comite. 

Chants Populaires des Provinces de France. Champfleury. Paris, 
1860. 

Chants Popidaires de la Provence. Damase-Arbaud. Aix, 1862. 

Moniteur. 1853. March 19, April 23, April 27, June 15. Arti- 
cles of M. Kathery on French Popular Poetry. 

Romancero de Champagne. Tarbe. Rheims, 1863, 1864. 

Chants Populaires Recueillis dans le Pays Messin. Par le Comte 
de Puymaigre. Paris, 1865. 

Chants Populaires de VOuest de la France. Bujeaud. 

Croyances et Legendes du Centre de la France. Laisnel de la Salle. 
Paris, 1875. 

La Mare au Diable. \ 

Mouny Robin. [ George Sand. Levy. Paris. 

Les Maitres Sonneurs. } 

Normandie Romanesque et Merveilleuse. Mdlle. A. Bosquet. 
Techener. Paris. 

A. LANG. 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES, 




THE BEWITCHED TEA-KETTLE. 

LONG time ago the priest of a Buddhist Temple at 
Tatebayashi, in the province of Pekin, found an old iron 
boiler amongst a lot of lumber, one of the kind of tea- 
kettles formerly used on great occasions. It looked as 
if it had been ill-used, it was so old and battered. But the priest was 
a thrifty man, and a lover of old-fashioned things; so he was 
looking to see what he could make use of amongst the lumber that 
his predecessor had left behind him. He cleaned the old kettle, 
and, filling it with water, set it on the fire to boil. To his great 
amazement it seemed to move, and the head, tail, and four legs of a 
badger seemed to grow out of it, before he could say the ever-ready 
prayer of his sect. It then jumped from the fire and tried to 
escape ; but the priest calling to the neophyte to come and aid him, 
they beat the badger down with brooms and caught it, and put it 
into a box. Now there was a dealer in old metal in the village 
who was known to the priest, and the neophyte was sent to bring him 
to the temple, but nothing was to be said about the tricks of the pot. 
When the box was opened to show the dealer, it seemed to be the 
same old rusty, dirty thing it was before the priest cleaned it, so the 
dealer would not give more than about ten cents for it. The priest, 
however, after some attempts to obtain more for such a heavy kettle, 
closed the bargain, glad to be rid of it. 

The dealer found it heavier to carry than he at first thought, but 
he managed to get it home. The same night he was awoke from his 
sound sleep by noises that seemed to come from the corner where he 
had placed the tea-kettle, but they ceased when he sat up to watch. 



SOME JAPAN FOLK TALES. 1 ] 9 

Fancying there might be a thief, he was cautious ; and presently, in 
place of the pot, he saw a great badger dancing about, in a way that 
astonished him, skipping from place to place and balancing itself in 
the strangest attitudes until the poor man was quite frightened. Early 
the next morning he went to a friend, another old-metal dealer, and 
told him about the badger's tricks. This old man had heard when 
a child about the story of a tea-kettle that was bewitched, and he 
thought that perhaps the one bought from the priest might be the 
same. He advised his friend, therefore, to exhibit the kettle as a 
curiosity, for, if the badger's good will and confidence could be gained, 
it would bring its possessor a fortune. He also advised that no 
prayers should be said, or religious ceremony observed, near the place 
where the tea-kettle was, as such would annoy the badger and inter- 
fere with the exhibition. The dealer took his friend's advice, and, 
erecting a temporary building, succeeded in getting the badger to show 
off his tricks in public. When the tea-kettle was placed on the stage 
it would not move till there was a crowded audience ; then, assured 
that every one had paid his entrance fee, it would gradually develop 
head, limbs, and tail, and go through the funniest performances on a 
tight-rope, with umbrella, fans, &c, dancing and tumbling, finally 
disappearing suddenly, and here the old rusty tea-kettle would be seen 
back on the stage again. 

The dealer became a very rich man, but he feared he had incurred 
the wrath of Nin-rai-oama (Buddhist divinity), and he therefore made 
presents of money to the temples that the priests might pray for him, 
and avert the punishment he feared he had incurred ; for, by giving up a 
portion of his wealth, he hoped to enjoy the remainder for many years, 
and be sure of a happy hereafter free of trouble. The priest who had 
sold the tea-kettle was a clever man, and had no difficulty in obtaining 
enough money to build a fine new temple, the dealer believing he was 
thus making the road easy for himself in the next world. There was 
a special place built for the tea-kettle. It was canonized, and named 
" Great Enlightened Spirit of Bum-buku ;" and is still to be seen. 




120 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 

SHIPPEI TARO, 

The Dog that Rescued the Maiden from Sacrifice. 

N the good old time, when young gentlemen were proud 
of the knowledge of fencing, and, not like those of this 
degenerate age, effeminate rakes, who spend their time 
dallying with dancing and singing girls, it was the custom 
for the young cavaliers to travel about and meet renowned swordsmen 
in order to practise manly accomplishments, become expert, used to 
hardship, and gain health and vigour. 

One of these students, who was roaming about the northern pro- 
vince, one night lost his way in the hills, and, becoming weary and 
foot-sore before he could find a habitation, joyfully espied a little way- 
side shrine, which he found was only just large enough to permit 
him to sleep inside. In the middle of the night he was aroused 
by a great noise made by a gathering of cats, which he could 
see by the faint light of the rising new moon were gamboling and 
evidently enjoying themselves. He fancied he could hear voices re- 
peatedly saying, " Don't tell Shippei Taro : don't let him know," — and 
then the cats would dance about with great glee. Being tired, and 
withal a little afraid, he did not dare to disturb their frolics. In the 
morning, feeling very hungry, he was anxious to find the nearest 
house, so followed the first path he met with, which, showing signs of 
recent footsteps, gave him hope ; but before he had gone far he heard 
cries of women, their voices sounding as if they were in great distress. 
Hurrying on, he came to a young girl crying bitterly, and seated on a 
bundle of firewood, which she had evidently been sent to gather. She 
told him that every year it was the custom to offer a sacrifice of 
a young maiden to the mountain god, that it had fallen to her lot 
for this year, and that in two days she would be the victim offered 
up. Further inquiry convinced him that this had something to do 
with what he had witnessed the night before. He accompanied her to 
the village, and, giving her the best encouragement he could to cheer 
her up, hurried on, and after satisfying his cravings with a hasty 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 121 

meal made inquiries about " Shippei Taro." This he was told was the 
name of a fine hunting-dog belonging to the Prince, who had left it in 
the care of an agent while his master was away at court. So off our 
hero trudged, and, telling the agent his story and fears, borrowed the 
dog. Fortunately this agent was a learned man and had been one of the 
most active of the disciples of the tenets of Haji-no-Tsukune, who was 
renowned in history for having substituted clay figures for living 
sacrifices. 

Now it was the custom to put the victim in a cage, so the student 
took the dog to the vicinity of the shrine, and, secretly communi- 
cating to the girl and her mother his intentions of attempting a rescue, 
watched his opportunity to substitute the dog for the girl. The 
following night the cats again assembled, and this time an enormous 
tom-cat, who seemed to be leader, appeared the most active. The 
student could hear voices, and to his astonishment heard the cats 
talking about and glorying in their anticipated feast, for it seems they 
would devour the poor girl as they had always done the former 
victims. 

The student at last let loose Taro, who first siezed Master Tom-cat, 
and made short work of him and scores of the others. It turned out 
these were ghouls in the form of cats, so the student's enchanted sword 
was made to do good work in seconding Taro's brave work. 

The student, imitating the great ancestor of the Emperor, Susa No, 
claimed the pretty maid as his wife, and the story becoming widely 
known, greatly contributed to the abolition of this hideous custom. 




122 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 



SUSA NO AND THE OROCHI. 

|HEN Susa No was banished for his wild conduct, he 
wandered homeless through the mountains for a long time. 
One day while trying to find his way through the thick 
forests of the country of Idzumo, at a place called Hi no 
Kawa Kami, he heard voices of women crying as if in great trouble. 
Making his way speedily in the direction of the voices, he soon came 
to an old man and woman and a young girl, and, inquiring the 
cause of their weeping and cries of distress, he was told that the 
deity of the mountain was propitiated by the yearly offering of a 
human sacrifice, a young maiden, and that it had fallen to the lot of 
their daughter to be the next victim ; also that there was a monster 
known as " Eight-forked-great-serpent," an eight-headed reptile vomit- 
ing flame, that appeared at the shrine during the time of sacrifice 
every year. 

Susa No offered to rescue the maiden, unknown to any one but them- 
selves, if they would give her to him to be his wife. Of course he 
would have to convey her speedily away, but she must first go through 
the ordeal of being taken to the place of sacrifice by her parents. The 
maiden joyfully consented, and was glad to have such a noble looking 
man as her rescuer and future lord and master. 

Susa No secretly procured eight large earthen jars and buried them 
opposite the shrine, so that they could not be seen during the ceremony. 
He also obtained a quantity of strong spirit, and hid it in the forest 
near at hand ; then, when all the people had departed before the BOO 
had set, leaving the maiden alone, for they feared the dreadful orochi, 
Susa No filled the jars with the spirit, and with drawn sword awaited 
the monster. He then released the maiden, but bade her remain in the 
shrine to attract the reptile, persuading her to have no fear, as he 
bore a charmed life. 

When the orochi, believing every one to have gone, approached the 
shrine with horrible noise and dreadful flaming eyes and tongues, the 
maid was much frightened; but, as Susa No had anticipated, it scented 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 123 

the spirit in the eight jars, and dipping a head into each, did not leave 
a drop in them. The strength of the spirit speedily took effect, so that 
the monster fell an easy prey to the brave Susa No. Now, as serpents 
are said to join readily again when cut, he hewed the orochi to pieces 
all but the tail. This resisted his efforts, so cutting it open he found 
therein the blade of a sword, now known as Mura Kumo Isurugi. 

Susa No subsequently erected a shrine, and composed a poem, which 
may be rendered thus: — 

Countless piling clouds 
Idzumo's rocky heights envelop, 
My spouse there have I placed, 
A fence around her raised, 
My strong arm protects her. 




MOMOTARO. 

NCE upon a time there was an old couple who had no 
children, and, being poor, could not adopt any. They 
grieved over their lonely lot, and often prayed and paid 
visits to neighbouring shrines, that they might not be left 
deserted in their last days, They were kind, honest, and devout, and 
their neighbours agreed that they were worthy, deserving folk. 

One day, after returning from a visit to a shrine, Granny was at the 
stream washing, when she saw floating along a fine ripe peach. 
Instead of at once greedily eating it, she put it carefully away to give 
to her old man. When she had given it to him, and he was about to 
divide it with a knife to give her half, it burst open and out dropped 
a little boy. 

The old couple were delighted, and, believing the gods had sent 
them at last the long-hoped-for child, they planned a round of thanks- 
giving visits, to be made as soon as possible. 

The boy was named Momotaro, and in course of time grew to be a 
fine lad, and the old man had him taught all the manly accomplish- 
ments, for poverty was not necessarily a hindrance to a willing and 
apt pupil. 

When he had reached the age to think and act for himself, he was 



124 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 

constantly thinking how he could best reward the old people for their 
kindness to him, and he set out on a pilgrimage to certain shrines, 
believing the good spirit would aid him. He had a dream that decided 
him as to his course in search for wealth and fame. There was an 
island said to be inhabited by demons who guarded fabulous treasures 
of precious things, hid in the caves, and fastened up with great metal 
doors, guarded by dragons and ghouls ; and he dreamt he had been to 
this demons' isle, that he had overcome the demons, killed the guards, 
and forced the gates, and that the spirits in the form of animals had 
aided him in finding the treasure. 

Momotaro now practised the use of heavy weapons until he be- 
came wonderfully expert. But the old folk were unwilling that he 
should incur such danger. He could be happy with them in their 
poverty : if they lost him they would be unable to replace him. But 
he persuaded them that the gods, who had sent him to them in a 
peach, would not desert them or him now. 

So at last he started on his perilous adventure. His pet dog ran 
after him and asked to be taken: he would be good and not bark. The 
old folk had given Momotaro a lot of cakes to eat on the road, and he 
gave the dog some. By-and -by they met a monkey, who asked Taro 
where he was going, " and what have you got those great weapons 
for ? " "1 am going to the Demons' Isle to kill the demons and take 
the treasure home to my old folks as some return for their kindness : 
here is some cake for you master monkey," said Taro. u Then I will 
go with you and help you," said the monkey. Taro thanked him, and 
gave him some cake. So the three went along together until they met 
a pheasant, who seemed to be a friend of the monkey. Taro gave him 
some cake, and when he heard where Taro was going he offered to join 
the party and help. So Taro was glad he gave him some cake, but 
wondered how his three friends were going to help him. 

When they reached the shore there was only one boat, and it was a 
long way off. The monkey told the dog to swim out with him on his 
back. He thus managed to untie the boat and bring it back. The 
pheasant flew out and helped with his wings too, the dog swam with 
the rope in his mouth dragging the boat, while the monkey paddled. 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 125 

When Tare- got in, the pheasant flew to the island to spy out a place 
where they might land before the demons saw them, so that they would 
have time to hide the boat, for without it they would not be able to 
return with the treasure. 

When they had landed and hidden the boat, Taro was guided by the 
pheasant to the cave, where he rapped, but got no answer. He then 
broke it open and found himself inside the palace of the demon-king. The 
pheasant- flew over, the monkey climbed in, and the dog ran about the 
palace searching for the place where the treasure was, and when they 
had found it they came and told Taro. Then the monkey set fire to a 
place to attract the demons, the dog barked, and the pheasant made 
a great noise with his wings and tail on the roof, and thus Taro got 
the treasure away safely to the boat. When the demons found out their 
loss, they ran after Taro, but, while the dog bit them, the pheasant 
picked out their eyes, and the monkey jumped on them and scratched 
their faces. Taro beat them badly, so they begged for life, which he 
promised to spare if they would show him all the treasure. This they 
did, and he made them carry it to the boat, and then got away home 
as quick as he could with his three friends. 

Taro and his friends were now happy, but the pheasant flew away 
to seek in the gardens of the princes the most beautiful lady in the 
land for Taro's wife. Taro's fame as a brave and rich man was great, 
so that he could choose where he liked, and thus he was able to fulfil 
the wishes of his kind old friends, who lived to see their great-grand- 
children. 



URA SHIM A TARO: 

HlS VISIT TO THE HOME OF THE SEA-DRAGON. 

ARO was the son of a poor fisherman and his wife, who were 
worthy, devout people, and taught their only boy to be 
pious, kind-hearted, and honest. They looked forward 
to a happy old age. One day when out fishing the boy 
caught a turtle, which immediately begged to be released. The fact 




126 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 

of its speaking to him assured liim that it must contain the spirit of 
some human being, so he gave it freedom. The turtle then invited 
him to travel, and he, being assured his parents would not want in his 
absence, set out with his new friend. Finally they arrived at a 
beautiful palace built of coral and pearl, and his companion was 
suddenly transformed into a beautiful girl. He lived with her for a 
long time; but being anxious to see his good old parents again, he 
wished to visit them, and on departing on his journey was presented 
with a casket, which, so long as it remained unopened, gave him power 
to return at will, or to become possessed of anything he wished for. 
The casket also carried with it the gift of immortal youth. After a 
time, however, his curiosity overcame his prudence and he opened the 
casket, when it immediately melted away and. disappeared, leaving him 
suddenly an old man. 

[Another version of the story represents Taro retaining the casket 
unopened (it only bringing him unlimited wealth), and living happily, 
after providing for his parents, and that a grandson opened it.] 



THE LOST FISH-HOOK. 




I-KO, the fourth son of Ni-ni-gi, was the first of hunters, 
and was ever successful. His elder brother Ho-uo tried 
fishing, but in vain ; he never caught anything, so he 
agreed to change places with his brother. The result was 
that Ho-no did not get anything for his efforts, and Hi-ko not only 
did not catch any fish, but lost the hook, a big fish having made off 
with it. 

Now, as this was a very serious loss, Ho-no was very angry with his 
brother Hi-ko, besides he was jealous of him, and, even when lli-ko 
made a great number of hooks, Ho-no refused them, unreasonably 
demanding the return of the lost one. Hi-ko was much grieved at his 
elder brother's harshness and unforgiving spirit and went to the sea-shore, 
at his wit's end what to do. While wandering along the beach he met 
an old man of very venerable appearance, who kindly inquired the 
cause of his grief. Hi-ko, glad to have some one to advise with in 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 127 

liis tribulation, told the old man about the loss of the hook and his 
brother's anger. The old man told Hi-ko that he was the "Venerable 
Ixiiler of the Tides," and that he could aid him. A wicker basket 
Avas speedily woven, as if by magic, and the old man directed Hi ko 
to go afloat in it and search for his hook, rather than return and bear 
with his brother's unkindness. 

Hi-ko gladly followed the advice, and, confident that the old man 
meant him well, set off without fear, for he was brave and honest. 
Before he had drifted far, he felt himself sinking rapidly down into the 
depths of the sea, and he could soon see spread before him a beautiful 
lake, on the banks of which grew an immense tree. Not far from the 
tree Hi-ko saw the entrance to a beautiful palace that turned out to 
be the Dragon Shrine or Sanctuary. Hi-ko, looking over the edge 
of his basket, saw a lovely maiden leave, the shrine and approach the 
lake with a crystal vessel as if going to draw water, and in his eager- 
ness and surprise he lost his balance and fell out, alighting in the 
branches of the tree. The noise startled the maiden, and, seeing the 
reflection of Hi-ko in the water beneath, she looked up, and saw the 
original in all his manly beauty just above her, gazing at her with 
admiration. The maiden, dropping her crystal water-holder, hastened 
back to the temple, and, meeting an old man at the entrance, pointed 
out to him Hi-ko in the branches of the tree. She said, " Surely this 
must be a son of the gods, he is so beautiful ;" and, if it was one of 
these divine beings come from Japan, he should be treated with kind- 
ness and invited to their home. 

This old man was Wada Zumi (" Wide-spread oceans "), and the 
beautiful maiden was his daughter, the Peerless Jewel lady. 

Hi-ko was therefore invited by both to become their guest, and their 
friendly reception induced him to tell them of his misfortune, and of 
his meeting with the old man of the tides. The host promised to 
assist his guest, but did not mention that really he was aware of all 
this before, and that his friend of the tides had done him a good act 
to send in his direction so worthy a husband for his daughter. 

The impatience and anxiety of Hi-ko, being allayed by hopes of 
finding the missing hook, were indeed soon forgotten in the companion- 



128 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 

ship of the Peerless Jewel maiden. In the meantime the fishes of the sea 
were ordered to assemble for examination, but no tidings came of the 
lost hook. The mutual love of the young couple caused the hook to 
be forgotten, and they were united, and for three years lived happily, 
Hi-ko having no desire to return. At length Hi-ko desired to revisit 
for a short time his own country, and wished another effort to be 
made to find the hook, so the fishes were once more ordered to 
assemble. 

The red-fish sent excuses, pleading indisposition, but a lobster was 
heard to say, that, peering out of a crevice, he saw that the red-fish 
had a sore mouth, as if something extraordinary was the matter. This 
gave a clue, and true enough there was the long-sought-for hook in the 
truant's mouth. Peerless Jewel had not, as heretofore, when she feared 
to lose her handsome lover, discouraged the search : her happy state 
made her anxious to see the land of her husband's race, and he being of 
Imperial birth it was advisable she should go. 

Hi-ko, happy in the recovery of the lost hook, and with a parting 
gift from Wada Zumi of two jewels, the possession of which gave him 
control over the flowing and receding tide, set out to prepare a fitting 
place to receive Peerless Jewel; and Wada Zumi told him it would be 
pleasing to the eight hundred million divine spirits, that he should 
build a roof of cormorant's wings, beneath which his child should first 
see the sun, for he would be the ancestor of the future emperors. 
Hi-ko then departed on a crocodile, and landed safe. 

When he met his brother and returned the hook, his reception proved 
that the loss of the hook was not the real cause of anger, and, when his 
brother attacked him and would have slain him, he remembered the 
tide jewels, and touching them commanded the tide to rise. Touching 
the other jewel Hi-ko caused the water to recede again, and he set to 
work to build the roof of cormorant's wings. Before this was finished 
Peerless Jewel had landed, bringing with her a lady more beautiful 
than a jewel, her youngest sister. Peerless Jewel's time of travail had 
approached unexpectedly, and she enjoined Hi-ko not to approach her, 
for dire would be the consequences. He in his anxiety could not desist, 
but he was punished by seeing his beautiful Peerless Jewel transformed 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 129 

into a crocodile that disappeared in the sea, leaving her child wrapped 
in sea-grass in the arms of her sister. The child was named U-ga-ya- 
fuki-awa-sedzu No Mikoto, "the royal child born beneath the un- 
finished canopy of cormorant's wings." 

Henceforth the sea became inaccessible to man, and the jewels lost 
their virtue to control the tides, for the fault of Hi-ko. 

U-ga-ya wedded the sister of Peerless Jewel, and lived 836,042 
years. He was the first whose end was mortal, the first to die, and 
was interred (the first burial) at Wagashuayama in the province of 
Hinga. 




TAMA MONO MAYE. 

The Fox with the White Face and Nine Tails. 

UNEHITO, the 74th of the Emperors (a.d. 1108 to 1123), 
now known by his posthumous title of Toba-no-In, became 
ill, but the doctors could not discover the cause or nature 
of the malady. At length Abe, the court astrologer, was 
consulted. He had heard some time previously that one night, when 
the Emperor was feasting, a sudden gust of wind had extinguished 
the lights, and, to the great amazement and terror of the company, 
the favourite mistress of the emperor, the lovely Tama Mono Maye, 
was noticed to emit a strange coloured luminous halo, which seemed 
to fill the air. This woman's origin was a mystery, but she seemed 
to have power to charm all who approached her. Abe suspected 
the emperor was bewitched by Tama, w r hom he considered to be no 
common mortal ; and now he gave this as his opinion of the cause 
of the illness of the emperor. The favourite soon became aware 
that Abe had denounced her, and had him summoned to the royal 
presence, where she with great craftiness completely overbore him 
in argument. She obtained an imperial order for his disgrace and 
confinement within his own gates. Now Abe's wife had formerly been an 
inmate of the chief minister's household, and by her influence through 
this channel obtained a further hearing for her husband. Abe then 
erected an altar within the palace grounds, at which to pray for the 



130 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 

recovery of the sick emperor, and then tried to induce him to approach 
it, under the plea of honouring it with his presence. This request, as he 
foresaw, was not granted, so he then induced the courtiers of both 
sexes to follow his own example, and at last only the favourite re- 
mained. She had avoided to the last by many cunning artifices every 
attempt made by Abe to get her within the precincts of the shrine. 
But she was at last without any excuse ; even the emperor became 
suspicious, as the twenty-one days of fasting and prayer by Abe 
approached an ending ; so she was compelled to go. The moment she 
stepped upon the matting at the foot of the shrine she was transformed 
into a white-visaged nine-tailed fox, and then vanished. The Emperor 
recovered and lived for some years after. 

Two brave warriors and skilful archers were ordered by the Emperor 
to seek the fox and destroy it. The search was tedious, but at last it 
was found in the wild plain of Nasu, in the province of Shiinotsuke. 
Surrounding the place with men so that it could not escape, they un- 
earthed and shot it. Immediately a large rock appeared on the spot, 
and such was its power of destruction, that no beast or bird ever ap- 
proached it and survived ; no mortal, even, was safe. At length a 
fence had to be erected round it, to keep the unwary or ignorant from 
harm. 

About fifty years after, a priest of a religious sect, then but lately 
founded as an offshoot of some older Buddhist sects, devoted himself to 
subduing the demon, and, taking with him a large hammer, approached 
the dreaded rock, reciting prayers, and then struck it violently, keep- 
ing time to his chanting and breaking large pieces off. At length the 
figure of the beautiful Tama Mono Maye appeared, and she reproached 
him for hurting her ; but the priest was well prepared to resist 
her spells ; so he continued to pray that the soul thus confined within 
the demon might be purified and released, and become a spirit ab- 
sorbed into eternity. 

His prayers seem to have succeeded, as the rock has ever since been 
harmless. 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 131 



THE LOVING WIFE. 




URING the days of the Emperor Sen-ka Ten O (about a.d. 
536 to 539) there was war between Japan and Corea. An 
expedition was sent to the provinces where fighting was 
going on, and with it went Sate Hiko, son of Otonomo 
Kanemura. The ships set out from Hizen, and the friends of the 
warriors ascended the hills to' see them as far on their voyage as 
possible. Sayo Hime, the wife of Sate Hiko, climbed higher than 
the rest, and when on the summit of Matzoura hill stood and prayed 
for her dear lord's safe and speedy return. Such was the intensity of 
her prayers and thoughts that she became petrified into a stony figure, 
and thus remains an enduring monument of what a true wife should 
be in her husband's absence — cold to all. Thus it is that the name of 
Sayo Hime is a household word in Japan for a faithful wife and 
devoted affection. 




THE SPARROW'S WEDDING. 

N the days of old, there lived in the forest at the back of 
an old shrine, not far from the pathway, a sparrow called 
Chiyo-suke. He had been for a long time looking about 
for a suitable wife for his eldest boy Chiyo-taro, being 
anxious that he should settle down and become more steady and 
industrious. As usual, he had formerly arranged with a neighbour 
a match between his daughter and Chiyo-taro, but the girl had 
died, and the boy was now, as his father thought, free. Such was not 
the case, however, because one day, when Chiyo-taro went to visit 
the shrine of his tutelary saint, he met the daughter of Suzu-yemon, 
and was so much charmed by her pretty face and modest ways that he 
fell in love with her directly, and, boy-like, suddenly decided that 
he would have her or none for his future wife. When he went home 
he took the first opportunity to confide his wish to his mother, and, 
as she had heard the story of Suzu-yemon, all about his being 
caught and his tongue cut by the cruel old woman, and also how 
kind and dutiful his daughter Osuzu always was to her friends, 

k2 



132 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 

she promised to help him. Chiyo-suke was sorry his son had not 
made a grander match, but, as there was nothing to be said against the 
character of Osuzu and her family, he, with a little coaxing, consented. 

The next thing to be done was to find some elderly woman, who was 
intimate with both families and a good match-maker, to act as a go- 
between in such cases, and who was smart and clever in finding out 
everybody's business. Now there is rarely much trouble in finding 
out such a one, for, if they manage well, they are sure to receive nice 
presents from all parties, and they generally try hard to earn them. 
Dressing herself in her best clothes, and asking that one of Chiyo-suke's 
maidservants might attend upon her to make a little more show, the 
match-maker j>aid a visit to Osuzu's family. The good folk guessed 
the object of the visit to be an offer of marriage for their daughter, but 
as in duty bound, according to olden custom, they cleverly avoided 
appearing to know it, and evaded every attempt to bring round the 
chat to that subject. After many pipes of tobacco had been whiffed, 
and tiny cups of tea sipped, they at length admitted that Osuzu was 
not as yet betrothed, but they were in no hurry, there was plenty of 
time, and her pretty face and cleverness would get her a rich husband 
by-and-by. The match-maker hinted that Chyo-suke's son would 
be a very good match. He was rich, handsome, and clever, not any 
worse than other young men, and so forth. She pressed her point, and 
finally obtained the consent of Osuzu's friends to return to Chiyo-suke 
and arrange for a formal meeting of the two families. 

Elated with her success, she commenced in earnest, and the result 
was that in a few days the middlemen or witnesses were appointed. The 
bridal gifts were chosen by the bridegroom, amongst other things a 
beautiful girdle, a bundle of white fibre, fish, wine, &c. 

In return the bride's family sent him a complete dress of ceremony, 
wine, &c, and on the day of the wedding her bridal outfit would be 
sent to her future home. 

A lucky day was now chosen for Osuzu to leave her old home, to go 
to her future one. Chiyo-taro's friends and neighbours met at his house 
on the evening of the happy day with their paper lanterns, which they 
lighted to go to meet the bride and her friends. 

When the chair in which Osuzu was carried arrived at her new 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 133 

home, she was lifted out of it and carried into the house with a great 
fuss, for it is not lucky to allow the bride to walk in for the first time 
lest she should touch with her feet certain places, and that would be a 
bad omen. She was first taken to the Buddha shelf, the family shrine, 
and to the Shelf of the Gods and other places, to kneel before them 
and pray to be admitted into the family, and for prosperity to her new 
home — she still wearing her beautiful new silk dresses and the veil 
of floss silk over her head. Then she was led to the best room, where 
a grand feast was spread out, and seated beside Chiyo-taro. They 
drank wine from the same cup, whilst the friends clapped their hands 
and congratulated them. She was then led to a side room, and her 
robes were changed for a beautiful bright-coloured crepe dress and a 
gold brocade girdle. During the feast her robes were changed several 
times, to exhibit to admiring friends the extent of her wardrobe, and 
by the time daylight was dawning every one had feasted so heartily 
that they Avere nearly all asleep. 

This was said to be the grandest wedding known in the forest for 
many long years. Chiyo-taro was a good, kind, husband, and he and 
Osuzu were happy and prospered, living to a good old age. 



A GUILTY CONSCIENCE. 




ONG ago there was a lazy man whom the little children 
of the village always teased and played pranks upon when 
they could. One very warm day they found him asleep 
in the shade, so they twisted up some paper and put the 
end in his nose ; they watched until he awoke, taking care, however, 
to be at a safe distance. 

The tickling of the paper in his nose woke him, and putting his 
hand up to his face he felt the paper, and started in a great fright 
shouting out, " Oh ! Oh, have I been changed to an ox, tied by the 
nose, to be a beast of burden ; is this a punishment for my sins ?" 
Though the children laughed, and so did the old people when they 
heard of it, the lazy man never forgot it, and he was persuaded by 
the priests of the village temple that it was a warning to him from the 
great Buddha. 




134 SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 



THE MAID WHOSE FACE WAS HIDDEN UNDER A BOWL. 

[N olden time there lived in an out-of-the-way place, in the 
province of Yamato, an old couple who had a very pretty 
daughter, an only child. Her father died while she was 
yet a little girl, leaving her and her mother in great want. 
They were of noble birth, but civil war had driven the father to hide 
himself in this place, and pride had prevented him making any effort 
to regain a position by humbling himself to his successful enemies, 
When the little maid was thirteen years old her mother fell sick. 

The poor woman, fearing she would never recover, was in great dis- 
tress before her death; the thought of leaving her lovely child alone in 
the world, without friends or protector, troubled her. She sent the 
maid for a large wooden bowl, and, when she brought it, directed her 
to put it on her head upside down so as to hide her face, and told 
her that when she became an orphan it was on no account whatever 
to be taken off until she was married of her own free will to the man 
of her choice. The mother died the same night, and the maid found 
the bowl could not be moved, and thus it remained for years. Her 
beauty became more marked every year and attracted much attention, 
but she firmly repelled all advances made her. Her hereditary pride, 
however, sustained her in her efforts to earn an honest, though a scanty 
and precarious, living, and she refused all proffers that appeared to be 
dictated by charity or evil intent. 

Now there was in this village, as in all others, a " great man," and 
he was both rich and clever. Having formerly been an officer at 
court, he had sent his son to replace him, and take advantage of the 
opportunity to study. The lady of the house was in delicate health, 
so he, hearing of the M beautiful maiden with the wooden bowl," took 
her under his protection, and she became the lady's waiting-maid. In 
time the son returned satiated with the follies and pleasures of the 
gay capital, and he was not slow to notice the beauty and modesty of 
his step-mother's handmaiden ; indeed before long he made fierce love 
to her, which she haughtily repelled, and her resentment only made 



SOME JAPAN FOLK-TALES. 135 

him the more eager to possess her. His family tried to dissuade him, 
and the unjust and unkind remarks he was forced to hear only the 
more determined him to obtain her as his wife. 

Her fair features, elegant bearing, well-chosen language, and her few 
accomplishments, made her an object of envy to the country lasses, but 
her lover's city experiences had taught him to know her true worth. 
Even when he had gained the unwilling consent of his friends, he had 
yet to obtain the maid's own free consent ; but one night, having 
dreamed her mother had visited her and advised her to consent, she 
finally allowed a lucky day to be chosen. 

Great was the stir made in preparing for the wedding ceremonies 
and feastings. Many were the remarks made, but the faithful and 
love-smitten swain heeded not the banter of his acquaintances of both 
sexes, and, as a diversion, set himself to work laying out the garden, 
and fitting up the apartments set apart for him by his father for him- 
self and his bride. 

Before the wedding, frequent efforts were made to remove the bowl, 
and the well-meaning, but too officious, friends only desisted when they 
found their efforts fruitless, and that they caused the maiden much pain. 
However, in the evening, when the final hymeneal wine cup had passed 
between them, the wooden bowl suddenly split asunder, and, disappear- 
ing with a great clash and rattle, left a shower of all kinds of precious 
and beautiful presents on the train of the bride's robes. She told her 
spouse about her mother appearing to her in her dream, and promis- 
ing that, if they were true and faithful to each other, happiness and 
prosperity would be their lot through life. Let us believe it was so 
with the faithful swain and his pretty maid with the wooden bowl. 

C. Pfoundes. 



A FOLK-TALE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 



[Reprinted from Ihe United States Geological and Geographical Survey, 
Miscellaneous Publications, No. 7 : " Ethnography and Philology of the 
Hidatsa Indians" by Washington Matthews, Ast. Sur., U.S.A. Wash- 
ington Government Printing Office, 1877.] 




| EAR the mouth of Burnt Creek, on the east bank of the 
Missouri, are the vestiges of some large round lodges, 
which stood there before the Indians came into the land. 
They were inhabited by several mysterious beings of great, 
power in sorcery. In one of the lodges lived the two great demi-gods 
Long Tail and Spotted Body ; a woman lived with them, who took care 
of their lodge and who was their wife and sister : and these three were 
at first the only beings of their kind in the world. In a neighbouring 
lodge lived an evil monster named Big Mouth, " who had a great 
mouth and no head." He hated the members of Long Tail's lodge, 
and when he discovered that the woman was about to become a mother, 
he determined to attempt the destruction of her offspring. 

When Long Tail and Spotted Body were absent on a hunt one day, 
Big Mouth entered their lodge, and, addressing the woman, said he 
was hungry. The woman was greatly frightened, but did not wish to 
deny him her hospitality ; so she proceeded to broil him some meat on 
the coals. When the meat was cooked, she offered it to him on a 
wooden dish. He told her that, from the way his mouth was made, 
he could not eat out of a dish, and the only way she could serve him 
the food so that he could eat it, was by lying down and placing it on 
her side. She did as he intimated, when he immediately devoured the 



A FOLK-TALE OF THE IIIDATSA INDIANS. 137 

meat, and in doing so tore her in pieces. She died, or seemed to die ; 
but the children thus rudely brought into the world were immortal. 
One of these he seized, and throwing him into the bottom of the lodge 
said, " Stay there for ever among the rubbish, and let your name be 
Atutish. The other he took out and threw into a neighbouring 
spring, saying to him, " Your name is Mahash ; stay there for ever, 
where you will love the mud and learn to eat nothing but the worms 
and reptiles of the spring." 

When Long Tail and Spotted Body came home, they were horrified 
to find their sister slaughtered ; they mourned her duly, and then 
placed her body on a scaffold, as these Indians do. After the funeral 
they returned hungry to the lodge, and put some meat on the fire to 
cook. As the pleasant odour of the cooking arose, they heard an 
infantile voice crying and calling for food. They sought and listened, 
and sought again, until at length they found Atutish, whom they 
dragged forth into the light, and knew to be the child which they 
supposed was devoured or lost for ever. Long Tail then placed 
Atutish on the ground, and, holding his hand some distance above the 
child's head, made a wish " that he would grow so high," and 
instantly the child attained the stature, mind, and knowledge of a boy 
about eight years old. Then Long Tail made many inquiries concern- 
ing what had happened to him and the whereabouts of his brother ; 
but the child could give no information of what took place during the 
visit of Big Mouth. 

In a day or two after this transaction, the elders made for the child 
a little stick and wheel (such as Indian children use in the game called 
by the Canadians of the Upper Missouri, roulette), and bade him 
play round in the neighbourhood of the lodge, while they went out to 
hunt again. While he was playing near the spring, he heard a voice 
calling to him and saying " miakas " (my elder brother). He looked 
in the direction from which the voice proceeded, and saw little Mahash 
looking out of the spriug. Wanting a playmate, Atutish invited him 
to come out and play. So Mahash came out, and the two brothers 
began to amuse themselves. But when Long Tail and his brother 
approached the lodge, on their return from the hunt, Mahash smelled 



138 A FOLK-TALE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 

them far off, rushed away like a frightened beast, and hid himself in 
the spring. When the elders returned, Atiitish told them all that 
happened whilo they were gone. They concluded that he of the 
spring must be their lost child, and devised a plan to rescue him, 
which they communicated to Atutish. 

Next morning they made another and smaller roulette-stick, for the 
enchanted child to play with. Then they divested themselves of their 
odour as much as possible, and hid themselves near the spring and to 
the leeward of it. When all was ready, Atutish went to the edge of 
the spring and cried aloud, " Mahash I do you want to come out ?" 
Soon the latter lifted his head cautiously out of the spring, raised his 
upper lip, showing his long white fangs, snuffed the air keenly, looked 
wildly around him, and drew back again into the water. Atutish 
then went near where he had seen his brother rise and called again to 
him, but the child answered from the water that he feared to come 
out, as he thought he smelt the hunters. " Have no fear," said 
Atutish ; " the old men are gone out hunting and will not be back till 
night. I am here alone. Come out to the warm sunlight. We will 
have a good time playing, and I will give you something nice to eat." 
Thus coaxed and reassured, the other ventured out, still looking mis- 
trustfully around him. Atutish then gave him a piece of boiled 
buffalo tongue to eat, which the little boy said was the best thing he 
had ever tasted. " Very well," said Atiitish, " let us play, and I will 
stake the rest of this tongue against some of your frogs and slugs on 
the game." Mahash agreed, and soon in the excitement of the play 
he forgot his fears. They played along with the roulette some time 
without much advantage on either side, until at length they threw 
their sticks so evenly that it was impossible to tell which was the 
furthest from the wheel. They disputed warmly, until Atutish said, 
" Stoop down and look close and you will see that I have made the 
best throw." The other stooped over to observe ; and, while his atten- 
tion was thus engaged, his brother came behind the little fellow, 
seized him, and held him fast. Atutish then called to the concealed 
hunters, who ran up, threw a lariat around the struggling captive, and 
bound him firmly. Having secured the wild boy, their next task *M 



A FOLK-TALE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 139 

to break the spell by which his tastes and habits were made so un- 
natural. To accomplish this, Long Tail and Spotted Body put him in 
the sweat-house, and there steamed him until he was almost exhausted. 
They then took him out and began to whip him severely. As they 
plied the lash they made wishes, that the keen scent would leave his 
nose, that the taste for reptiles would leave his mouth, that the fear of 
his own kind would leave his heart, &c. As they progressed with this 
performance, he suddenly cried out to Atutish, " Brother, I remember 
myself now; I know who I am." When he said this he was released ; 
and his first impulse was to run to the spring. He ran there ; but 
when he reached the edge he stopped, for he found he no longer loved 
the black mud and the slimy water, and he returned to the lodge. 

Long Tail then placed the twins side by side, and holding his ex- 
tended hand, palm downwards, above their heads, a little further from 
the ground than on the previous occasion, wished that they would both 
be " so high ;" when at once they grew to the size of boys about four- 
teen years old, and they grew in wisdom correspondingly. Then Long 
Tail made bows and hunting- arrows for the boys, and a pair of 
medicine-arrows for their protection and for use on extraordinary occa- 
sions, and he addressed them saying, "You are now big enough to 
protect yourselves. Go out on the prairie and hunt, and we will see 
which one of you will be the best hunter." After that they went out 
every day and became expert hunters. 

Once, as they were looking for game among the hills, they came to 
a scaffold on which a corpse was laid. " There," said Atutish, " is 
the body of our mother. She was murdered, no one knows how." 
" Let us try the strength of our medicine arrows upon her," said 
Mahash, " perhaps we could bring her back to life." So saying he 
stepped close to the scaffold and shot straight up. As the arrow 
turned to fall, he cried out, " Take care, mother, or you will get hurt," 
and, as it descended near the body, the scaffold shook and a low groan 
was heard. Then Atutish stepped nearly under the scaffold and shot 
up in the air. As his arrow turned to fall he cried out, " Mother ! 
Mother ! Jump quick or the arrow will strike you." At once she 
arose, jumped down from the scaffold, and, recognising her children, 



140 A FOLK-TALE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 

embraced them. The boys then asked her who was the author of 
their calamities, and how it all happened. She pointed to the lodge 
of Big Mouth, and related all the circumstances of her death. Upon 
heariug this, the boys swore they would be revenged. Their mother 
endeavoured to dissuade them, describing Big Mouth to them, assur- 
ing them that his medicine was potent, and that he certainly would 
destroy them if they went near him. They paid no attention to her 
remonstrances, but proceeded to plot the destruction of the monster. 

Now this Big Mouth had a very easy way of making a living. He 
neither trapped nor hunted, nor took pains to cook his food. He 
simply lay on his back, and when a herd of deer came within sight of 
his lodge, or a flock of birds flew overhead, no matter how far distant, 
he turned towards them, opened his great mouth, aad drew in a big 
breath, when instantly they fell into his mouth and were swallowed. 
In a little while the boys had their plans arranged. They built a large 
fire, and heated some small boulders in it. Then they carried the 
stones to the top of his lodge, put them near the smoke-hole, and 
began lo imitate a flock of blackbirds. " Go away, little birds," said 
Big Mouth, " you are not fit to eat, and I am not hungry ; but go 
away and let me sleep, or I will swallow you." " We are not afraid 
of you," said the boys ; and they began to chirp again. At length 
Big Mouth got angry. He turned up his mouth, opened it wide, and, 
just as he began to draw his breath to suck them in, the boys stepped 
aside, and hurled the stones down into the lodge. " Oh, what sharp 
claws those birds hava ! They are tearing my throat !" exclaimed the 
monster, as he swallowed the red-hot rocks. The next moment he 
roared with pain and rushed for his water-jars, drinking immense 
draughts ; but the steam made by the water on the rocks swelled him 
up, and the more he drank the worse he swelled, until he burst and 
died. 

The boys brought the body home, and, after they had danced suffi- 
ciently around it, their mother praised them for what they had done ; 
but she said, " You must not be too venturesome. All these lodges 
around are inhabited by beings whose power in sorcery is great. 
You cannot always do as well as you have done this time. You 



A FOLK-TALE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 141 

should keep away from the rest of them. There is an old woman in 
particular whom you must avoid. She is as powerful as Big Mouth ; 
but you cannot kill her in the same way as you killed him, for she 
catches her food, not in her mouth, but in a basket. Whenever she 
sees anything that she wants to eat she tnrns her basket towards it, 
and it drops in dead. If she sees a flock of wild geese among the 
clouds, no matter how high they fly, she can bring them down." 
When the boys heard this, they said nothing in reply to their mother, 
but set off secretly to compass the death of the witch. They went to 
the lodge of the latter, and standing near the door, cried, " Grand- 
mother, we have come to see you." " Go away, children, and don't 
annoy me," she replied. " Grandmother, you are very nice and good, 
and we like you. Won't you let us in ?" continued the boys. " Oh, 
no," said she, " I don't want to hurt you ; but begone, or I will kill 
you." Despite this threat, they remained, and again spoke to her, 
saying, " Grandmother, we have heard that you are very strong 
medicine, and that you have a wonderful basket that can kill anything. 
We can scarcely believe this. Won't you lend us the basket a little 
while until we see if we can catch some birds with it ?" She refused 
the basket at first, but, after much coaxing and flattering, she handed 
it to them. No sooner were they in possession of the basket, than 
they turned it upon the witch herself, and she dropped into it dead. 

After this exploit the mother again praised the boys, but again 
warned them to beware of the evil genii of the place which she de- 
scribed. One of these was a man with a pair of wonderful mocassins, 
with which he had only to walk round anything he wanted to kill. 
Another was a man with a magic knife, with which he could either cut 
or kill anything that he threw the knife at. These individuals they 
destroyed in the same manner that they overcame the basket-woman, 
by coaxing them to lend their magic property, and then slaying the 
owners with their own weapons. On each occasion the boys retained 
the charmed articles for their future use. 

When all this was done, the old mother called her boys and told 
them there was but one more dangerous being that they had to guard 
themselves against. She said, " He lives in the sky where you cannot 



142 A FOLK-TALE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 

get at him ; but he can hurt you, for his arm is so long that it reaches 
from the heavens to the earth. His name is Long Arm." " Very 
well," said the boys, " we will beware of him." One morning, soon 
after receiving this advice, they went out very early to hunt, but could 
find nothing to kill. They walked and ran many miles, until late in 
the day, when they became very tired and lay clown to sleep on the 
prairie. As was their custom, they stuck their medicine arrows in the 
ground, close beside them. The arrows possessed such a charm, that 
if any danger threatened the boys, they would fall to waken them. 
While the brothers lay asleep, Long Arm looked down from the 
clouds, and, beholding them, stretched his great arm down towards 
them. As the arm descended, the arrows fell hard upon the boys ; 
but the latter were so tired and sleepy that they did not waken, and 
Long Arm grasped Atiitish and bore him to the sky. In a little 
while Mahash woke up and discovered, to his horror, that the warning 
arrows had fallen, and that his brother was gone. He looked round 
carefully on the prairie for the departing tracks of his brother, or for 
the tracks of the man or the beast that had captured him, but in vain. 
When at his wits' end, and almost in despair, he chanced to glance 
towards the sky, and there, on the face of a high white summer cloud, 
he saw the doubled track of Long Arm, where he came near the earth 
and went back. Mahash laid down his bow and arrow and other 
accoutrements, retaining only his medicine knife, which he concealed 
in his shirt. He next stuck his magic arrows into the ground and got 
on top of them, and then he crouched low, strained every muscle, and 
sprang upwards with all his might. He jumped high enough to catch 
hold of the ragged edge of the cloud. From that time he scrambled 
higher, until he at last got on Long Arm's trail, which he followed. 
For fear of recognition he wished himself smaller, and, becoming a little 
toddling child, moved on till he came to a great crowd, moving in one 
direction, with much talk and excitement. He ran up to an old 
woman who walked a little apart, and asked her what was the matter. 
She informed him that they had just captured one of the children of 
the new race which was growing on the earth — a boy who had de- 
stroyed many favoured genii, and that they were about to kill and 



A FOLK-TALE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 143 

burn him. " Grandmother," said Mahash, " I would like to see this, 
but I am too little to walk there. Will you carry me ?" She took 
him on her back and brought him to the place where the crowd had 
gathered. There he saw his brother tied to a stake, and a number of 
people dancing round him. He thought if he could only reach the 
post unobserved, and touch the cords with his medicine-knife, he could 
release his brother ; but for some time he was puzzled how to do it. 
At length he slid down from the old woman's back, and wished that 
for a little time he might turn to an ant. He became one, and, as such, 
crawled through the feet of the crowd and up to the post, where he 
cut the cords that bound Atutish. When the latter was free, Mahash 
resumed his proper shape, and they both ran as hard as they could for 
the edge of the clouds. The crowd pursued them ; but, as each fore- 
most runner approached, Mahash threw his knife and disabled him. 
At last Long Arm started after the brothers, running very fast. As 
he came within his arm's length of them, he reached out to grasp one 
of them. Ashe did so, Mahash again threw his knife, and severed 
the great arm from the shoulder. The boys got back safely to the 
earth. They, having ridded themselves of all their enemies, lived 
in peace, and in time they moved away from that locality. — " Ethno- 
graphy and Philology of the Hidatsa Indians" pp. 63-70. 



VARIOUS SUPERSTITIONS OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 

HEY have a great many superstitious notions, yet I believe 
their superstitions are neither more numerous, nor more 
absurd, than those of the peasantry of some European 
nations of to-day. There is, too, among them every 
degree of faith in these fancies, from almost perfect scepticism to the 
most humble credulity. I will not describe all of their superstitions 
known to me, but will refer, for illustration, to a few of them. They 
believe in the existence and visibility of human and other ghosts, yet 




144 VARIOUS SUPERSTITIONS OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS. 

they seem to have no terror of graveyards, and but little of mortuary 
remains. Yeu may frighten children after nightfall by shouting 
nohidahi (ghost), but will not scare the aged. They have much 
faith in dreams, but usually regard as oracular those only which 
come after prayer, sacrifice, and fasting. They have queer notions 
respecting the effects of different articles of diet, thus: An ex- 
pectant mother believes that if she eats part of a mole or shrew, 
her child will have small eyes ; that if she eats a piece of porcupine, 
her child will be inclined to eat too much when it grows up ; that if 
she partakes of the flesh of the turtle, her offspring will be slow or 
lazy, &c. ; but they do not suppose such articles of food affect the 
immediate consumer. They have faith in witchcraft, and think that a 
sorcerer may injure any person, no matter how far distant, by acts 
upon an effigy or upon a lock of the victim's hair. 

It is believed by some of the Hidatsa, that every human being has 
four souls in one. They account for the phenomena of gradual death, 
where the extremities are apparently dead while consciousness re- 
mains, by supposing the four souls to depart one after another at 
different times. When dissolution is complete, they say that all the 
souls are gone, and have joined together again outside of the body. I 
have heard a Minnetaree quietly discussing this doctrine with an 
Assinneboine, who believed in only one soul to each body. 

Every man in this tribe, as in all other neighbouring tribes, has his 
personal medicine, which is usually some animal. On all war parties, 
and often on hunts and other excursions, he carries the head, claws, 
stuffed skin, or other representative of his medicine with him, and 
seems to regard it in much the same light that Europeans in former 
days regarded, and in some cases still regard, protective charms. To 
insure the future fleetness of some promising young colt, they tie to 
the colt's neck a small piece of deer or antelope horn. The rodent 
teeth of the beaver arc regarded as potent charms, and are worn by 
little girls on their necks to make them industrious. — " Ethnography 
and Philology of the Hidatsa Indians," pp. 49, 50. 



CHAUCEE'S NIGHT-SPELL. 




jYRWHITT'S Canterbury Tales enjoyed for half a century 
the reputation of being the best edited poem in the 
English language. But it had one failing : it was 
Tyrwhitt's text, and not the text of any one M.S. In 
1847 the late Mr. Thomas Wright edited the Canterbury Tales for 
the Percy Society from the Harleian M.S. No. 7334, which he pro- 
nounced the " best and oldest MS. " he had met with. That edition 
was a great boon to Chaucer students ; albeit it bore occasional 
evidence that the editor, whose powers of work (great as they were) 
were always overtaxed, had not been able to bestow upon it the time 
and consideration necessary to do justice to his author or to his own 
powers of illustrating the language and allusions of Chaucer. 

This is strikingly illustrated by the note which he makes on the 
curious Night Charm, which in The Miller's Tale Chaucer has put 
into the mouth of the carpenter : 

" Lord Jhesu Crist, and seynte Benedyht 
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight, 
Fro nyghtes verray, the white Paternostre 
When wonestow now, seynte Petres soster." 
This is Mr. Wright's version of the text. I now quote his note on 
Verray. "This is the reading of the MSS. I have consulted. Tyrwhitt 
reads mare, which is perhaps right." 

Seeing that Verray was the reading of the MS. which he had 
selected as the " best and oldest," and of the other MSS. which he 
had consulted, I certainly was surprised to find Mr. Wright coming 
to the conclusion that Trwhitt's reading " mare " is perhaps right. 

In spite of my respect for Mr. Wright's judgment on any matter 
connected with our early language and literature, I took a different 

L 



146 chaucer's night-spell. 

view of this reading, and thought, perhaps, the MS. was right ; and, 
at all events, the question was worth investigating. 

Disappointed at finding that Brathwaite, in his Comment on The 
Miller's Tale (p. 31), had omitted the words of the charm, I made up 
my mind to collect the readings of it from as many MSS. as I could 
get access to ; a resolution which I fear must have procured for me 
the character of a great bore, not only from some of my friends, but 
also from possessors of Chaucer MSS. to whom I was not known. 
Among the latter my thanks were especially due to the late Lord 
Ashburnham, to whose kindness and courtesy I was indebted for 
transcripts of " The Charm " from all his MSS. ; while among the 
former I must gratefully remember the late Rev. John Wilson, of 
Trinity College, Oxford, who sent me similar transcripts from all the 
MSS. in the Bodleian, from one in his own college, and one at 
Corpus. I myself copied it from all the MSS. in the British Museum. 
For, while I was most anxious to clear up the meaning of the hitherto 
unnoticed " verray," I was also desirous to learn what I could about 
" the white Paternoster " and " St. Peter's Soster," indulging, like 
Mr. Micawber, in the hope " that something would turn up " which 
would furnish materials for a pleasant paper for the Society of 
Antiquaries. 

When, on the formation of the Folk-Lore Society, I was invited to 
contribute to its publications, I remembered my old curiosity about 
Chaucer's Night Charm, and determined to look up my notes on the 
subject. But, alas ! in the thirty years of a life (not altogether an 
idle one) which have passed since those notes were made, I regret to 
say, many of them have disappeared, and, of the numerous transcripts 
of the passage to which I have referred, I have only been able to 
recover the eight from the Oxford MSS., and two of those I copied 
from the British Museum ; and some few references to passages in 
English and foreign books of folk-lore, more or less illustrative of the 
three allusions in the Charm, which appear to me at least very 
obscure, viz., u Nightcs verray," " St. Peter's Soster," and " White 
Paternoster;" and I should now have hesitated to submit so frag- 
mentary a paper to the Members of the Folk-Lore Society but for 



CHAUCER'S NIGHT-SPELL. 147 

my belief that one of the main objects of that Society should be the 
gathering np of the remains of the Old- World Beliefs for the use of 
the English Grimm, whose genius and good fortune it may be to 
evolve from them the Mythology of England. 

The following are the ten versions of the Night Spell as it appears 
in the MSS. to which I have referred. I omit, except in the first 
instance, the four introductory lines, as their repetition would occupy 
much space without any advantage, as they do not contain a word 
which tends to throw light upon the point at issue ; and here let me 
plead, in justification of my preference for the old Mumpsimus 
" verray " over the new Sumpsimus li mare," not only that it occurs 
(varying only in orthography) in eight out of the ten MSS., but also 
that two or three years ago an accomplished friend with whom I had 
once talked over the Spell sent me the following readings of the line 
in which the word " verray " occurs, from the Six Texts Edition of The 
Canterbury Tales, published by the Chaucer Society, and that it is 
il verye," not " mare," in every instance : 

I. For nyghtes verye the white paternoster. 

Ellesmere MS. 
II. For the nyghtes uerye, &c. 

Hengwrt MS. 
III. For the nyghte's verye, &c. 

Cambridge MS. 
IV. and V. For the nyghtes uerye, &c. 

Corpus and Petmorth MSS. 
VI. For the nyghte verye, &c. 

Lansdowne MS. 



I crouche ye from elves and from wightes 
b'c with ye might spel a none rightes 
on fotur halves of ye house abought 
and on the threswold of ye dore with oute 
J'hu crist and saint Benedicte 
Blisse yis house from everie wicked wight 
ffor >e nighte mar J>e with a pater n'r 
Wher wendest J>ou seint petri's sustur. 

MS. Bodl. Hattm D.I. 
L2 



148 CHAUCER'S NIGHT-SPELL. 

II. 

Now J'hu crist and seynt bencdyght 
blisse this hous from ev'y wikkede wight 
for the Dyghtes very the white pater noster 
where wentestow seynt Pet'is suster. 

MS. Bodl. Arch. Selden, B. 14. 

III. 

J'hu crist and seint benedight 
Blisse this hous from every wikked wight 
ffor the nyghtes verie the white pater noster 
where wentestow thou seynt petir suster. 

MS. Bodl. Land. 739. 

IV. 

J'hu christ and seynt beneditht 
Blesse )>is house from every wikked wight 
ffo >e nyghtees verie J?e white pat'n'r 
Where wendestow J>ou seint petrus suster. 

MS. Bodl. C86. 
V. 
J'hu crist and seint benedight 
Blesse \>\& hous from ev'y wikked wight 
ffo \>e nightes verie the white pater noster 
Where wentestow thou seint petir suster. 

MS. Bodl. Lond. 600. 
VI. 
J'hu crist and seint Benedight 
Blisse this hous from every wicked wight 
ffor the night mare the white pater nost' 
Wher wentestow seint petir suster. 

MS. Bodl. 414, fo. 83. 
VII. 
J'hu crist and seynt Benedight 
Blesse this hous from every wikkede wight 
For the nightes veiye the white pate noster 
Where wentestow thou seinte Peteris suster. 

MS. Corpus Christi Coll. Oxon. fo. 48, sect. xv. 

VIII. 
J'hu criste and seinte beneditight 
Bille this house from ev'y wikkid wight 
fro nyghtis veerc the white pat' nost' 
wher kneledestow thou seint petcrcs si.st'. 

MS. Trin. Coll. Oxon. No. 49. 



ciiaucer's night-spell. 149 



IX. 

Jh'u crist and seint Benedight 
Bliss this hous from every wikkede wyght 
ffor the nyghtes verye the white paternoster 
Where wentestow bow seynt peters suster. 

Royal MS. 18, C. ii. 

X, 

J'hu Criste and saynte Benedicte 
Blysse the howse frome everye wykede wyghte 
ffor the nyghtes werye the with pater n'r 
Where whentestow you saynte peters suster. 

Paper— Royal MS. 17 C. 14. 

I had hoped to submit a few of the notes I had formerly made on 
the words " Verray," "Verye," and some analogous names; but it 
is a curious incident in connection with my advocacy of the reading 
" Veray," that, with the exception of a few brief references, such as 
" warra " in Haupt's Alt Deutsche Blatter, i. 371, to the word 
"Werre" in WackernagePs Worterbuch, and the word "Vare" in 
Hoffman's Reineke Vos, the only memorandum of any length which 
I have recovered is in connection with a locality of which I never 
heard before, except from a cousin, who, when travelling on the 
Continent some forty years since, found himself in Thomsdorf. 

In Kuhn and Schwartz's Nord-deutsche Sagen, Mdrchen, und Ge- 
brauche, s. 66, they give a curious legend from Thomsdorf of Die Alte 
Fricke — the Devil's Grandmother ; and in a note upon that legend 
(s. 508) the learned editors tell us that a similar legend is preserved 
in Haupt and Schmaler's Volkslieder der Wenden, ii. 172, where the 
old witch or sorceress is called " Wera," a name clearly analogous to 
" Werra," a Sclavonic deity, nearly connected with Frau Holle. He 
then refers to Grimm's Mytlwlogie, where (2nd ed. p. 251) we are 
told in a note upon the infuriated Berchta " that in Voightland, on 
the eve of the new year, the Werre makes a careful search to see 
whether all the flax has been spun, and, if it has not, spoils whatever 
is left ; and if on that evening the poise (a sort of thick broad cakes 
of flour and water) have not been got ready, tears open the body of 



150 chaucer's night-spell. 

those who have neglected to make them." Werre is more merciful 
than Berchta, who, if her expected feast has uot been prepared for her, 
after tearing open the bodies of those who have so offended her, sews 
them up again, with a ploughshare instead of a needle, and iron 
chains instead of thread. 

From the interest which I took in this subject, it was only natural 
that when Notes and Queries was established I should seek to gain 
through its columns some illustration of it. Accordingly, in February, 
1850, I inserted (1st S. i. p. 229) an inquiry as to the three interest- 
ing points in this remarkable night-spell. This was almost imme- 
diately answered, as to two of them, by my kind and accomplished 
friend the late Canon Rock (ibid. p. 281), with the ingenious sugges- 
tion that the u White Paternoster " may possibly be the " Witch's 
Paternoster," and he quoted in support of this suggestion a paragraph 
from Henry Parker's Compendiouse Treaty se or Dialogue of Dives and 
Pauper, 1536, from which I will quote only one short passage, which 
seemed to bear very strongly in favour of Dr. Rock's hypothesis. 

" It hath oft been knowen that wytches with sayenge of their Pater- 
noster and droppynge of the holy candell in a man's steppes that they 
hated, hath done his fete rotten off;" and he went on to suggest that 
St. Peter's soster should rather have been St. Peter's daughter, St. 
Petronilla, the St. Pernell of The Golden Legend, who, as he tells us, 
" came to be looked upon in this country as the symbol of bad health 
under all its forms. Now, if we suppose that the poet mistook and 
wrote ' soster ' instead of ' doughter,' we immediately understand the 
drift of the latter part of the spell, which was, not only to drive away 
witchcraft, but guard all the folks in that house from sickness of every 
kind." 

I am bound, in candour, to add that the learned Canon in a subse- 
quent communication dissented from my view of 4< veray," and for 
reasons which will be seen in Notes and Queries (4th S. iii. p. 438) 
states, "to my mind therefore ' nightes verray ' is only and simply 
another word for our present term ' night-mare.' " 

But the information which my divers inquiries had failed to elicit 
was a year or two afterwards incidentally brought forward in answer 



chaucer's night-spell. 151 

to an inquiry (1st S. xi. p. 206) as to the age and author of the old 
nursery hymn, 

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, 
Look upon a little child, 
Pity my simplicity, 
And suffer me to come to Thee. 

to which at page 313 Mr. W. J. Bernhard Smith wrote as follows : — 

" The nursery hymn is probably in part derived from the Paternostre 
blanche, pour aller infalliblement en Paradis," to be found in the 
Enchiridion Papce Leonis, Momce, mdclx., which, absurd and almost 
profane as it is, I quote for his information, as the work which con- 
tains it is by no means common — 

" Petite Patenotre blanche que Dieu fit, que Dieu dit, que Dieu 
mit en Paradis. Au soir m'allant coueher, je trouvis trois anges a, nion 
lit couches, un aux pieds, deux au chevet, la bonne Vierge Marie au 
milieu, qui me dit que je me couchis, que rien ne doutis. 

" Le bon Dieu est mon Pere, la bonne Vierge ma Mere, les trois 
apotres sont mes Freres, les trois Vierges sont mes Sceurs. La 
chemise ou Dieu fut ne, mon corps en est enveloppe ; la croix Sainte 
Marguerite a ma poitrine est ecrite ; Madame s'en va sur les champs 
a Dieu pleurant, rencontrit Monsieur Saint Jean. Monsieur Saint 
Jean, d'ou venez vous ? Je viens d'Ave Salus. Vous n'avez point vu 
le bon Dieu ; si est, il est dans l'arbre de la croix, les pieds pen- 
dans, les mains clouans, un petit chapeaux d'epine blanche sur la tete. 

11 Qui la dira trois fois, au soir, trois fois au matin, gagnera le 
Paradis a la fin." 

Of this book, quoted by Mr. Smith, another correspondent P P.P. in 
the same volume, p. 511, gives a very interesting notice ; from which 
it appears that it was first published at Rome in Latin in 1502, 
and was several times reprinted and early translated into French, in 
which language it has passed through many editions. It consists of 
a collection of prayers, many of which are those used by the Church, 
but for the most part burlesqued or disfigured and adopted for the 
purposes of sorcery as practised in the Middle Ages ; among whom 
the book held the rank of a text-book ; while it enjoyed great popu- 



152 chaucer's night-spell. 

larity among the rustic population from its containing many charms 
connected with rustic pursuits. P.P.P. adds, La Pate-Notre blanche 
is referred to in terms of reprobation by Jean B. Thiers, who says ; 
" La priere ridicule que l'on appelle La Pate-Notre blanche, dont les 
zelateurs, qui sont en assez grand nombre, et snrtout a la campagne, 
promettent infalliblement le paradis a ceus qui la disent tous les jours." 
P.P.P does not give any reference to this passage, which is, I presume, 
taken from that curious book of Thiers, Traite des Superstitions qui 
regardent les Sacramens, of which I have a copy in 4 vols., 4th edition, 
Paris, 1774. 

Mr. Smith explained afterwards that he was perfectly aware that 
the book had no claim to be considered as a book of genuine devotion, 
and that it was essentially a magical work, his copy being followed 
by the Grimoire, a book of black magic, and full of diabolical incan- 
tations. 

Let me refer such of my readers as may desire to know more of 
these curious specimens of French popular literature to Nisard's 
interesting Histoire des Livres populaires, ou Be la Litterature du Col- 
porteur, 2 me ed. Paris, 1864. Le Grand Gimoire is described at 
p. 129 et seq. of the first volume, and the Enchiridion at pp. 148 et seq. 
of same volume. 

At the risk of sharing the reproach levelled at Gratiano of " speak- 
ing an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice," 
I must trespass upon my readers with another reference to Notess and 
Queries (1st S. viii. 613), not only for its version of the White Pater- 
noster, in this case connected with Saint Peter's Brother, but for the 
curious charms illustrative of our Folk-Lore in the reign of James I., 
which the writer found on turning over an old book of Controversial 
Divinity, White's Way to the True Church, fo. 1624, and which all 
students of folk-lore will, I think, read with interest. 

The extract is a long one, but I think as curious and valuable as it 
is long. 

White is insisting upon " the prodigious ignorance " which he 
found among his parishioners when he entered upon his ministrations, 
and he proceeds thus to tell his own tale : — 



chaucer's night-spell. 153 

"I will only mention what I saw and learned, dwelling among 
them, concerning the saying of their prayers ; for what man is ho 
whose heart trembles not to see simple people so far seduced that they 
know not how to pronounce or say their daily prayers ; or so to pray 
that all that hear them shall be filled with laughter ? And while, 
superstitiously, they refuse to pray in their own language with under- 
standing, they speak that which their leaders may blush to hear. 
These examples I have observed from the common people. 
The Creed. 
" Creezum zuum patrum onitentem creatorum ejus anicuni. Domi- 
num nostrum qui sum sops, virgini Marias, crixus fixus, Ponchi Pilati 
audubitiers, morti by sonday, father a femes, scelerest un judicarum, 
finis a mortibus. Creezum spirituum sanctum, ecli Catholi, remissurum, 
peccaturum, communiorum obliviorum, bitam, et turnam again." 
The Little Creed. 
" Little Creed, can I need, 
Kneele before our Ladies knee ; 
Candle light, candles burne, 
Our Ladie pray'd to her deare Sonne 
That we might all to heaven come, 
Little Creed, Amen." 

" This that followeth they call the ' White Paternoster:' 
" White Pater-noster, Saint Peter's brother, 

What hast i' th t'one hand ? white booke leaves, 

What hast i' th t'other hand ? heaven yate keyes. 

Open heaven yates, and streike [shut] hell yates : 

And let every crysome child creepe to its owne mother. 
White Paternoster, Amen." 
il Another Prayer : 

" I blesse me with God and the rood, 

With his sweet flesh and precious blood ; 

With his crosse and his creed, 

With his length and his breed, 

From my toe to my crowne, 

And all my body up and downe, 

Prom my back to my brest, 

My five wits be my rest ; 

God let never ill come at ill, 

But through Jesus owne will, 

Sweet Jesus, Lord. Amen." 

" Many also use to weare vervein against blasts ; and, when they 



154 chaucer's night-spell. 

gather it for this purpose, firste they crosse the herbe with their hand, 

and they blesse it thus : 

" Hallowed be thou, Vervein, 
As thou growest on the ground, 
For in the Mount of Calvary 
There thou wast first found. 
Thou healedst our Saviour Jesus Christ, 
And staunchedst his bleeding wound ; 
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, 
I take thee from the ground." 

These passages may be seen in " The Preface to the Reader , M sec. 13, 
no page, but on the reverse of Sig. A 4. 

The writer of this interesting communication winds up his paper 
with the following very valuable suggestion, which I earnestly com- 
mend to the consideration of such members of the Folk-Lore Society 
as, with a desire to promote its objects, may at any time come across 
any of these uninviting bulky folios of Controversial Divinity, and may 
have leisure to turn the opportunity to good account : 

" It might at first appear somewhat strange that these interesting 
remnants of early belief should have escaped the notice of your numer-. 
ous correspondents, whose attention has for so long a period been 
directed to this inquiry ; but this may be accounted for if we remember 
that the volume in which they occur is one which would seem primd 
facie least likely to afford any such materials. It is one of those 
uninviting bulky folios of which the reigns of James and Charles I. 
furnish us with so many specimens. Here we might fairly expect to 
discover abundant illustrations of patristic and scholastic theology, of 
learning and pedantry, of earnest devotion, and ill-temper no less 
earnest ; but nothing whereby to illustrate the manners or customs, 
the traditions, or the popular usages or superstitions of the common 
people. This may be a hint for us, however, to direct our attention to 
a class of literature which hitherto has scarcely received the attention 
to which it would appear to be entitled ; and I would venture to 
express my conviction, that, if those who are interested in the illustra- 
tion of our popular antiquities were to give a little of their time to 
early English theology, the result would be more important than 

might at first be anticipated." 

William J. Thoms. 



PLANT-LORE NOTES 

TO MES. LATHAM'S WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 




AVING had the privilege of reading in proof Mrs. Latham's 
charming little monograph of West Sussex Folk-Lore, 
which may well serve as a model for other papers of 
similar character, I am induced to offer a few hurried 
notes upon some of the plant-lore therein recorded. I regret that 
time does not permit me to make similar comments upon the whole 
paper, so far as it relates to natural history, in the folk-lore of which 
I am especially interested; but I trust to have an opportunity at some 
future period of bringing before the members some further communi- 
cations upon this subject, and may therefore perhaps be allowed to say 
how glad I shall be to receive information regarding the folk-lore of 
any branch of natural history. 

The Blackberry. 
P. 14 (60). I am informed that in some parts of Ireland it is be- 
lieved that the devil puts his foot on the blackberries after Michaelmas 
day ; and Threlkeld, in his Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum (1727), 
speaking of blackberries, mentions as a "vulgar error" the belief 
that " after Michaelmas the D 1 casts his club over them." 

The Hazel Nut. 
P ? 14 (61). In Suffolk and Kent (Notes and Queries, 4th 
Series, ix. 166), and in Lincolnshire (ibid . 225), Holy Eood Day (Sept. 
14th) was supposed to be the special occasion when nutters were 
likely to meet the devil, or "to come to grief of some kind." This 
is the more strange, seeing that the same day was recognised by 



156 PLANT-LORE NOTES TO 

others as especially suited to nutting ; thus in u Grim the Collier " 
Act ii. sc. i. (1662) we have the lines — 

" To-morrow is Holy Rood day 
When all a nuttiug take their way." 
See also Brand (Bohn's edition), i. 353, and Notes and Queries, 
1st series, x. 263, where a long account is given of the keeping of the 
" festival of nutting-day " at Penryn, Cornwall, " on some particular 
day in September or October," which was in all probability the day 
above named. 

The Yarrow. 
P. 32 (100). The use of this plant in love-divinations is wide- 
spread. In Suffolk it is employed in a curious manner: a leaf is 
placed in the nose, with the intention of making it bleed, while the 
following lines are recited : — 

" Green 'arrow, green 'arrow, yon bears a white blow, 
If my love love me, my nose will bleed now ; 
If my love don't love me, it 'ont bleed a drop ; 
If my love do love me, 'twill bleed every drop." 

The old English name of the plant, Nose-bleed, may have been 

bestowed upon it either because " the leaves being put into the nose 

do cause it to bleede, and easeth the paine of the megrim," as Gerard 

tells us ;* or because, on the contrary, " assuredly it will stay the 

bleeding of it."f The styptic properties of the plant are alluded to in 

the names Bloodwort and Carpenters'-grass, both given by Treveris in 

the Grete Herball, and in the Scotch name Stanch-girss. Drayton 

refers to 

" The yarrow wherewithal he stops the new-made gore." 

In Dublin on Mayday, or the preceding night, women place a stock- 
ing filled with yarrow under their pillow, reciting the following lines : — 
" Good morrow, good yarrow, good morrow to thee, 
I hope by the morrow my lover to see ; 
And that he may be married to me. 
The colour of his hair and the clothes he does wear, 
And if he bo for me may his face be turned to me, 
And if he be not, dark and surly may he be, 
And his back be turned to me." 

* Ilei'bal, p. 615. t Parkinson's Thmiruw Bot antou n, p. 695. 



mrs. latham's west sussex superstitions. 157 

A shorter form of these lines is recited in Wicklow by girls on 
Hallow Eve, while pulling the plant ; " a person using the invocation 
was obliged to retire for the night without speaking."* Mr. Halli- 
well f says : " An ounce of yarrow, sewed up in flannel, must be 
placed under your pillow when you go to bed, and, having repeated 
the following words, the required dream [of a future husband] will be 
realised : 

Thou pretty herb of Venus' tree, 

Thy true name it is yarrow ; 
Now who my bosom friend must be, 
Pray tell thou me to-morrow." 

It does not seem quite clear from the context whether this is an 
Eastern Counties custom. 

Having said so much about yarrow, two other notes may be added. 
The gathering of the plant with an incantation was one of the charges 
against one Elspeth Keoch, on her trial for witchcraft in March, 1616. 
It was alleged that she had plucked " ane herb called melefour " — in 
which name we see a modification of milfoil, another name of the 
plant, — sitting on her right knee, and pulling it " betwixt the mid- 
finger and thombe, and saying of In nomine Patris, Filii, et Spiritus 
Sancti." By the plant so gathered she was enabled to cure distemper 
and to impart the faculty of prediction. There is no doubt that the 
yarrow was the plant referred to, as the " melefour" is said to be the 
herb " quhilk causis the nose bleed." 

Mr. E. P. Shirley % speaks of having been engaged in an important 
land case, when he " received, in a very secret and mysterious manner, 

a little packet from an old woman, with an assurance that 

if I would keep it it would assuredly bring me luck." Success at- 
tended his efforts ; and the packet, on being opened, was found to 
contain some dried yarrow, of which the old woman said " that it 
was the first herb our Saviour put in His hand when a child, and that 
therefore," she added, "to those who were by tradition acquainted 
with that fact, it would certainly bring luck." 

* Irish Folk-Lore : by " Lageniensis." (1870). 

f Popular Rhymes, p. 223. 

% Notes and Queries, 4th series, x. 24. 



158 PLANT-LORE NOTES TO 

The Ash. 
P. 41 (129). In Science-Gossip for 1865, p. 85, a correspondent, 
" R. H." (Mr. Robert Holland), gives the following as a Cheshire 
remedy for warts in connection with the ash-tree, " which is by many 
implicitly believed in." " Steal a piece of bacon ; rub the warts with 
it ; then cut a slit in the bark of an ash-tree, raise up a piece of the 
bark, put in the bacon, and close the bark down again.' In a short 
time the warts will die away from the hand, but will make their ap- 
pearance on the bark of the tree as rough excrescences. This remedy 
has been quite successful in the case of my man, who told me!" A 
Leicestershire remedy, corresponding more closely with the East 
Sussex formula, will be found in Notes and Queries, 1st series, vii. 81. 

Unlucky Plants. 
The bringing of a solitary primrose into the house (pp. 52, 174-5) 
is considered unlucky in East Anglia. In Notes and Queries 1st 
series, vii. 201, " E. G. R." (the late Rev. Edward Gillett, of Rain- 
ham) says, " My gravity was sorely tried by being called on to settle, 
a quarrel between two old women, arising from one of them having 
given one primrose to her neighbour's child, for the purpose of making 
her hens hatch but one chicken out of each set of eggs, and it was 
seriously maintained that the charm had been successful." It is sub- 
sequently stated that geese are specially influenced by this charm ; in 
Worcestershire less than a handful of primroses or violets, taken into 
the house, will bring destruction to the young ducks and chickens.* 
In some parts of Essex it is believed that sickness or death will ensue 
if the blossoms of the whitethorn be brought into a house ; in Norfolk, 
that no one will be married from the house during the year. In 
Switzerland it is also considered "unlucky" to bring the flowers 
indoorR.f Many of our English spring wild flowers are regarded, in 
different parts of the country, as of ill-omen. In Cumberland, about 
Cockermouth for example, the red campion {Lychnis diurna) is 
called " mother-dee," and there is a superstition among the children 

* Note* and Queries, 2nd series, iii. 343. 
f Note* and Queries, 4th series viii. 4. 



MRS. LATHAM'S WEST SUSSEX SUPERSTITIONS. 159 

that if they pluck it some misfortune will happen to their parents* 
u Death-come-quickly," a West Cumberland name for the herb 
robert (Geranium liobertianum), seems to point to some similar belief. 
In some parts of Yorkshire it is said that if a child gathers the 
germander speedwell ( Veronica Chamfcdrys) its mother will die during 
the year. In Middlesex, schoolboys offer to their uninitiated com- 
panions a plant of the shepherd's purse (Capsella Bursa-pastoris), 
and request them to pluck off one of the heart-shaped seed-pods, which 
done, they exclaim, " You've picked your mother's heart out !" This 
was practised at Chelsea in my own school-days; and, as a Lanca- 
shire name for the plant is " Mother's -heart," it seems likely that 
the custom is widely extended. Something of the same sort exists 
in Birmingham : Mr. W. Macmillan * says : " I remember when at 
school at Birmingham that my playmates manifested a very great 
repugnance to this plant. . . . Very few of them would touch it, 
and it was known to us by the two bad names ' Naughty man's 
plaything ' and ' Pick your mother's heart out.' " Dr. Berthold See - 
mannf says, that in Hanover, as well as, according to ITartmann, 
in the Swiss Canton of St. Gall, the same plant is offered to an un- 
initiated person with a request to pluck off one of the pods ; should 
he do so, the others exclaim, u You have stolen a purse of gold from 
your father and mother !" It is interesting to find that a common 
tropical weed, Ageratum conyzoides, is employed by children in Vene- 
zuela in a very similar manner. Dr. Ernst gives its vernacular 
Venezuelan name as " Rompes araguelo," and says,J " It is explained 
by some as ' rompes a tu abuelo ' (you tear your grandfather), with 
reference to a child's play. One child takes hold of the lower part of 
a leaf, another of the upper. If one pulls as hard as to tear the leaf, 
the other exclaims, ' Rompes a tu abuelo.' " 

James Britten. 

* Science- Gossip, xi. (1876) 94. 

\ Hannovcrschc Sittcn unci Georauclu: in ihrer Bezichung zur Pflanzcnwclt 
(Leipzig, 1862), p. 33. 
% Seemann's Journal of Botany, iii. 316 (1865). 



YOEKSHIKE LOCAL EHYMES AND 
SAYINGS. 




|OT the least interesting amongst the items of folk-lore 
are the expressions of popular wisdom contained in those 
local rhymes, proverbs, and sayings -which are to be met 
with throughout the country. Nor are these altogether 
deficient in historical value, as bearing in some instances upon the 
manners and customs of the past, or upon the social history and con- 
ditions of places and districts. 

Many of the following instances from Yorkshire were published in a 
small pamphlet by the late Mr. Reginald W. Corlass, and placed at the 
disposal of the Council of the Society for use when opportunity should 
arise. By the assistance of Mr. Edward Hailstone, F.S.A., some con- 
siderable additions have been made to the original collection ; and it 
was thought that the result might be placed on record now, as a first 
instalment of similar collections for the remaining counties of England, 
for many additional sayings in connection with particular localities 
have come to light since Ray's time, and, moreover, it now becomes 
necessary to gather together much more useful information as to the 
origin of these sayings — information which will afford the student of 
English History and Topography occasional glimpses into olden times. 
1. To begin with the capital city, York seems anciently to have been 
held in high popular regard : 

" Lincoln was, London is, and York shall be, 
The fairest city of the three, 

runs the old saying, mentioned both by Fuller in his Worthies of 
England and by Stukeley in the Itinerarium Curiosum. The former 
authority says, " That Lincoln was — namely a far fairer, greater, richer 



YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 161 

city than now it is — both plainly appears by the ruins thereof, being 

without controversie the greatest city in the kingdom of Mercia. That 

London is, we know ; but that York shall be, God knows." Those who 

hope that it may become the English metropolis, he adds, " Must wait 

until the river Thames runs under the great arch of Ouse bridge." 

Mr. Hazlitt, in his collection of English Proverbs and Proverbial 

Phrases, p. 211, mentions a proverb connecting York with London— 

" I cannot be at York and London at the same time," 

which probably may have some reference to Dick Turpin's famous ride, 

the hero having made his journey so rapidly from London to York that 

it was thought impossible he could be at both places on the same day, 

and, therefore, his friends attempted to set up an alibi for his defence. 

A Yorkshire song of the sixteenth century, which is given at length 

in the opening pages of Halli well's Yorkshire Anthology, also greatly 

praises this city, in the following words of the chorus : 

" Yorke, Yorke, for my monie: 
Of all the citties that ever I see, 
For mery pastime and companie, 
Except the cittie of London." 

2. A similar idea is expressed in the old saying, " Merry Wakefield." 
Fuller is puzzled to know why such should be said of this place, un- 
less proceeding from " fruitful soyl and cheap country, and, where good 
chear and company are the premisses, mirth (in common consequence) 
will be the conclusion." But we may almost look upon the celebrated 
Pindar of Wakefield as the author of this expression — " Merry Wake- 
field and her Pindar too." See upon this a communication signed 
" St. Swithin " in Notes and Queries, 2nd series, xi. 310. The old legend 
says that the Pindar (the celebrated George-a-Green) met and thrashed 
both Robin Hood and Little John ; and a poem given in Halliwell's 
Yorkshire Anthology (p. 154) speaks of — 

u that towne, which hath, in former time, 

So flourish'd and so gloried in her name, 
Famous by th' Pindar, who first rais'd the samel" 

The Pindar of Wakefield's Legend is the title of a small privately- 
printed octavo, and The History of George-a-Green, the Pindar of Wake- 
field, was published in London, 12mo., 1715, illustrated with woodcuts. 

M 



162 YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 

3. The growing prosperity of Hull seems also to have been anciently 

predicted : 

" When Dighton is pulled down, 
Hull shall become a great town." 

Ray says, in his English Proverbs (p. 264), "Dighton is a small 
town, not a mile distant from Hull, and was in the time of the late 
wars for the most part pulled down. Let Hull make the best they 
can of it." Dighton is supposed to be an error for My ton, and in 1642, 
when the town was threatened by Charles I., some houses in Myton 
Lane, as well as the Charter House, were laid in ruins by the governor, 
Sir John Hotham, that they might not be occupied by the royal army. 
But another suggestion, made by Mr. Edward Solly in Long Ago for 
February, 1874, is certainly equally suggestive with the above. " The 
saying," says Mr. Solly, " if it rests only upon Rays Proverbs, may 
certainly be a misprint, and there does not seem to be any evidence of 
the existence of a village called Dighton within a mile of Hull before 
1 640. There was a small place called Drypole, on the east bank of the 
river Hull, just beyond the castle, which was occupied by the besiegers 
in 1643, and which was then in great part destroyed. This Dry pole 
was never rebuilt as an independent place after the siege, but was 
gradually absorbed into the city of Hull ; and the prophecy was cer- 
tainly fulfilled, not as regards Dighton, but as regards Drypole, when 
its ruins were pulled down and the new buildings of the eastern part 
of Hull raised in their place." 

" You have eaten some Hull cheese," 
means that you are intoxicated. Hull cheese we are told, through 
Nares' Glossary, from Taylor's Works (1631), " is much like a loafe 
out of a brewer's basket, cousin germain to the mightiest ale in Eng- 
land." 

" Oxford for learning, 

London for wit, 
Hull for women, 

and York for a tit,' 

is given in Hazlitt's English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases (p. 312), 
and another saying in connection with this town — 

From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, good Lord deliver 



YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 163 

is stated by Fuller to be a part of the M beggars' and vagabonds' " 
litany. Hull is " terrible unto them as a town of good government, 
where vagrants meet with punitive charity, and, 'tis to be feared, are 
oftener corrected than amended." The magistrates of Hull were in 
olden times known for the stringent measures they took to suppress 
vice. In 1599 we read that a Bench order was made that each 
alderman should take an account of all vagabonds, idle persons, 
sharpers, beggars, &c, in his ward, and punish them severely. They 
were also to notice absentees from divine service on Sundays, and 
punish them. 

4. u Halifax," continues Fuller, " is formidable unto them for the law 
thereof." This law, known as the Halifax Gibbet Law, provided that 
a felon taken with stolen goods in his possession, or upon confession, 
should after trial be beheaded within three market-days after the deed, 
with an instrument of a similar design to the guillotine. 

The origin of this so-called law is curiously related inThe History of 
Thomas of Reading ; or the Six Worthy Yeomen of the West, which 
is included by Mr. Thorns in his edition of Early Prose Romances, and 
is perhaps worth quoting here. King Henry the First, before his 
departure into France, asked to be informed by the clothiers of Eng- 
land "if there be any thing not yet granted that may benefit you, or 
any other thing to be removed that doth hurt you?" Among the 
answers thereto u was a griefe, whereof Hodgekins of Hallifax com- 
plained, and that was: That whereas the Towne of Hallifax liued alto- 
gether vpon cloathing, and by reason of false borderers, and other euill 
minded persons, they were oft robbed, and. had their clothes carried 
out of their fieldes, where they were drying, That it would please his 
Majestie to graunt the Towne this priuilege, That whatsoever he was 
that was taken stealing their Cloth, might presently without any 
further tryall be hanged up." The King's answer to this part of their 
request was: " Content thee, Hodgekins, for we will have redresse for 
all ; and albeit that hanging of men was never seene in England, yet 
seeing the corrupt world is growne more bold in all wickednesse, I 
thinke it not amisse to ordain this death for such malefactors, and 
peculiarly to the towne of Hallifax I giue this priuilege, That whoso- 

M 2 



164 YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 

ever they finde stealing their Cloth, being taken with the goods, that 
without further Judgement they shall be hanged up." But even this 
rigorous law did not work well. Later on we are humorously told 
how one Wallis escaped his hanging because there was no one to hang 
him! "A plague vpon you, quoth he [Wallis], you have hindred me 
God knowes what; I made account to dine this day in heauen, and you 
keepe me here on earth where there is not a quarter of that good 
cheare." But Hodgekins went a step still further. He " posted it vp 
to the Court, and told his Maiesty that the priuelege of Hallifax was 
not worth a pudding. Why so? said the King. Because, quoth 
Hodgekins, we can get neuer a hangman to trusse our theeues, but if 
it shall like your good Grace (quoth he) there is a feate Fryar, that 
will make vs a deuise, which shall without the hand of man cut off the 
cragges of all such carles, if your Maiesty will please to allow thereof. 
The King, vnderstanding the full effect of the matter, at length granted 
his petition. Whereupon till this day it is observed in Hallifax, that 
such as are taken stealing of their cloth, haue their heads chopt off 
with the same gin." (See Early Prose Romances, edited by W. J. 
Thorns, vol. i.; The Pleasant Historie of Thomas of Beading, pp. 27, 
29, 62.) John Taylor, the water poet, has the following lines in refer- 
ence to this custom : 

" At Hallifax the law so sharpe doth deale, 
That whoso more than thirteen pence doth stcale, 
They have a jyn that wondrous quick and well 
Sends thieves all headless into heaven or hell." 

And in A New Age of Old Names (small 4to, 1G09), the Reverend 
Jos. Wybarne alludes to it while speaking of " obstinacie ": "Which 
scruilefieth a man to his will so that hee becomes, like Maecenas, a 
thousand times married to the same wife, always iarring, yet alwayes 
faint to be reconciled; the ground of this phrenzie is, that men will 
before they deliberate, first executing the prisoner, then enquiring of 
his demerits, as men say they doe at Halifax." (Notes and Queries, 
5th series, iv. 154.) Chambers, in the Book of Days, gives an ac- 
count of the operation of the law in several instances (see June 2nd) ; 



YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 165 

and Watson's History of Halifax contains a list of persons who 
suffered. Gibbet Lane is still the name of a well-known thorough- 
fare in Halifax. But this famous law has a special book devoted to 
it : Hallifax and its Gibbet-Law placed in a true Light. This is 
stated to be printed at London for William Bentley, 1708. But 
Lowndes says the real author was Dr. Samuel Midgley. It contains a 
woodcut of the gibbet, and gives an account of the origin of the 
custom, as arising from the manorial privileges of the manor of Wake- 
field, of which Halifax is part. Indeed, the identical axe belonging to 
the Halifax gibbet is kept by the steward of the manor of Wakefield. 
This leads us back from tradition to history again, and Sir Francis 
Palgrave has placed on record the archaic position which English 
history must afford to the Halifax Gibbet Law. (See English Com- 
monwealth, i. 213.) 

In connection with Halifax we have also the expression, " Go to 
Halifax." This expression is well known in Lancashire (see Rotes and 
Queries, 5th series, iv. 154), and was very common about Looe, in 
East Cornwall, about fifty years ago (ibid.) It has also travelled to 
America (ibid. p. Q6). It is a mild substitute for a direction to go to a 
place not to be named to ears polite. 

The woollen manufacturers of Flanders, during the persecution in 
their own country, sought refuge in England in great numbers, and 
many are said to have settled in Halifax. A similarity is also said to 
exist between the local dialect and that of Friesland and the low 
countries, whence the following distich: — 

" Gooide brade, hotter, and sheese, 
Is gooid Halifax and gooid Friese." 

5. Our national fate seems at one time to have depended upon the 
town of Sheffield, if we may believe the following: — 

" When Sheffield park is ploughed and sown 
Then little England hold thine own." 

Unfortunately for the fulfilment of this, the park alluded to has long 
since been ploughed and sown. 



166 YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 

6. Other sayings, however, are more favourable to this district: 

" Winkabank* and Templebrough,t 
Will buy all England, through and through." 

These places are in the neighbourhood of Sheffield. 

7. And again — 

" When all the world shall be aloft, 
Then Hallamshire shall be God's croft." 

8. Formerly there stood an ancient stone cross at Sprotborough, near 
Doncaster, bearing the following lines on a brass plate : — 

" Whoso is hungry and lists well to eat, 
Let him come to Spotborough for his meat; 
And for a night and a day 
His horse shall have both corn and hay, 
And none shall ask him when he goes away." 

The Rev. Scott Surtees, in his Waifs and Strays of North Humber 

History [1864], is of opinion that these rhymes refer to the ancient 

sanctuary laws of King Alfred, providing that protection should be 

given to any criminal who betook himself toa" Minster House " for 

the space of three nights, whereby opportunity was given him to 

arrange his defence or to compound for his crime. 

9. The following is given in Hazlitt's English Proverbs and Pro- 
verbial Phrases (p. 226), but without any explanation of its origin :— 

" If you go to Nun Keling, you shall find your belly filling 

of whig or of whay ; 
But go to Swine, and come betime, 

or else you go empty away. 
But the Abbot of Means doth keep a good house 

by night and by day." 

Swine, Meaus, and Nun Keling (now Nunkeeling) are in the East 
Riding. 

10. And another from the same authority (p. 395) is — 

" Ther's a hill again a stack all Craven through," 

which is equivalent to every bean hath its black. Craven is in the 
hilly part of the West Riding. 

* Now Wincobank. 

f Remains of a Roman town have lately been discovered here. 



YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 167 

11. Another proverb, — 

11 Like the Parson of Saddlewick, who can read in no book bnt his own," 

is referable to a Yorkshire town. Grose ascribes this to " Cheshire 
proverbs." But no such place as Saddlewick is known to have ever 
existed in England, and the proverb was well known in 1828 at 
Saddleworth, a large district in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the 
wildest part of which borders on Lancashire, and was formerly in 
the diocese of Chester. This would appear to have been a likely spot 
for such a saying to be used about the parson. Britton, in his Beauties 
of England (vol. ix. p. 299), quotes from Whitaker's History of 
Whalley (p. 433) : " The chapel of Saddleworth was erected by William 
de Stapleton, lord of that remote and barbarous tract, in the end of the 
twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century." (See Notes and Queries, 
4th series, xii. 388, 524.) 

12. In connection with Paull, a village on the Humber some seven 
miles eastward of Hull, is the following couplet : — 

" High Paull, and low Paull, and Paull Holme, 
The never was a fair maid married at Paull town." 

The truth of this is obvious from the fact of the church standing by 
itself on an eminence nearly a quarter of a mile from the village. 

13. The following lines explain themselves. Pendle is a high hill 
in Lancashire, and the two others are on the border of Yorkshire near 
Settle:— 

" Pendle, Ingleborough, and Pennigent, 
Are the three highest hills between Scotland and Trent." 

The same has also been expressed in — 

" Pendle, Pennington, and Ingleborough, 
Are the three highest hills all England through." 

14. In the following distich Spenser describes the characteristics of 
well-known Yorkshire rivers : — 

" Still Are, swift Wherfe, with Oze the most of might, 
High Swale, unquiet Nidd, and troublous Skell." 



168 YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 

15. To trustworthy persons the expression has been applied — 

" As true steel as Rippon rowels," 

i.e. spurs. The best spurs were formerly made at Ripon, which, says 

Fuller, " may be inforced to strike through a shilling, and will break 

sooner than bow." Drayton, in the Polyolbion, Song ii. p. 71, thus 

alludes to the fame of this district in these manufactures : — 

" The Lands that over Ouse to Barwick forth doe bear, 
Have for their Blazon had the Snaffle, Spur, and Spear." 

16. We may, perhaps, he*e most appropriately mention a saying 
given by Ray in reference to an imputed characteristic of Yorkshire- 
men, and contained in the words — 

" Shake a bridle over a Yorkshireman's grave and he will arise and steal a 
horse." 

17. As "sure as a louse in Pomfret," speaks ill for that place. 

18. Of Cleveland it is said — 

" Cleaveland in the clay, bring twa shun, carry yane away." 

Or, as Ray has popularized it — 

" Cleveland in the clay, 
Bring in two soles and carry one away." 

Which is explained from the fact that the ways in winter-time were 

very foul and deep. 

Weather-wisdom is largely dealt with in these popular rhymes. 

Thus— 

" When Roseberry Topping wears a cappe, 
Let Cleveland then beware a clappe." 

This cap refers to the mist overhanging the lofty hill bearing that 
name in the North Riding, previously to a thunderstorm. Camden, 
who notices this proverb, observes, that, " when its top begins to be 
darkened with clouds, rain generally follows." 
There are variations of the distich — 

" When Roseberry Topping wears a cap, 
Let Cleveland men beware of a rap." 

And allusions to other places are made in some of the variants Thus 

(10)- 

" When Roseberry Topping wears a hat, 
Morden carre will suffer for that." 



YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 169 

The latter place cannot be exactly indicated, but doubtless from its 
name, carre, some lowland likely to be flooded in wet weather. 

20. From the Denham Tracts, privately printed at Richmond, Dur- 
ham, and Newcastle upon-Tyne, in various years since 1850, we have — 

" When Eston nabbe puts on a cloake, 
And Koysberrye a cappe, 
Then all the folks on Cleveland's clay 
Ken there will be a clappe." 

Eston Nabbe is near the end of the mountain chain of that part of 
Yorkshire leading to the estuary of the river Tees, five miles distant 
from Middlesbrough, and now noted for its ironstone mines. The soil 
in this part of Cleveland is a heavy clay description. 

21. Another set of these rhymes gives us the following : — 

" When Hood Hill has on its cap, 
Hamilton's sure to come down with a clap." 

The places are on the hills of the Cleveland district, but should be 
called " How Hill," three miles from Stokesley, and u Hambleton," 
generally spoken as Hamilton, seven miles from Thirsk. Hamilton 
Moor is celebrated as a training-ground for horses (Denham Tracts). 

22. Of Rawdon Billing it is said — 

" When Billing Hill puts on its cap, 
Calverley Mill will get a slap." 

Billing is the highest point of the hill in Rawdon, dividing the valleys 
of the rivers Wharfe and Aire ; on the latter is Calverley Mill, — not 
far off the village where the tragedy was committed, and the founda- 
tion of the play, " The Yorkshire Tragedy," ascribed by some to 
Shakspere. 

23. Another of these rhymes says — 

" When Oliver's Mount puts on bis hat, 
Scarborough town will pay for that." 

Scarborough also furnishes us with a satirical saying conveyed in 
the term " A Scarborough warning," which is indeed no warning at 
all. Fuller traces this to the circumstance of the castle being seized 
by Thomas Stafford in 1557, before the townsmen were aware of his 
intention. By the exertion and industry of the Earl of Westmoreland 



170 YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 

however he was secured, taken to London, and beheaded within six days. 
(Nichols's Fuller's Worthies, ii. 494.) Another explanation of this 
saying is that it was anciently the custom to fire from Scarborough 
Castle without warning upon passing vessels which did not strike their 
sails. It has also been referred to a custom similar to the Halifax 
Gibbet Law. Thus it is alluded to in A Brief Ballad touching the 
traitorous taking of Scarborough Castle : Imprinted at London, in Fleet 
Street, by Tho : Powell ; the eighth verse of which is as follows : — 

" This term, Scarborough Warning, grew (some say) 
By hasty hanging, for rank robbery there 
Who that was met, bnt suspect in that way, 
Straight was he trussed up, whatever he were ; 
Whereupon, thieves thinking good to forbear 
Scarborough robbing, they let that alone, 
And took Scarborough warning every one." 

See A Bundle of Ballads in the Black letter, Laid open to view in modern 
type and orthography, 1550 — 60 — 70. BepHnted by CJias: Hindley, in part 
iii. of Miscellanea Antigua Anglicum. 

It is mentioned by Tusser in his Five Hundred Points of Good Hus- 
bandry, the first edition of which was issued in 1557 (the year in 
which Fuller supposes the saying to have originated), as "A Hundreth 
good Pointes of Husbandrie," and the edition, as it at present stands, 
was published in 1573. This seems to suggest an earlier origin. 
Tusser's lines are — 

" Be surety seldom (but never for much), 
For fear of purse, penny less, hanging by such; 
Or Scarborow warning, as ill I believe, 
When (Sir, I arrest ye!) gets hold of thy sleeve." 

(Br. Mavor*s Edition, p. xxvii.) 

It is also mentioned in a letter by Toby Matthew, Bishop of 
Durham, to Hutton, Archbishop of York, dated Jan. 19, 1603. (See 
Notes and Queries, 4th series, xii. 408.) Dr. Chambers says, " In 
the parish of Anwoth, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, there is a 
rivulet called Skyreburn, which usually appears as gentle and innocent 
as a child ; but, from having its origin in the spacious bosom of the 
neighbouring hills, it is liable, on an ordinary fall of rain, to come 



YOKKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 171 

down suddenly in prodigious volume and vehemence The 

abruptness of the danger has given rise to a proverbial expression, 
generally used throughout the south-west of Scotland — Skyrehirn 
warning. It is easy to conceive that this local phrase, when heard 
south of the Tweed, would be mistaken for Scarborough warning." 
(The Book of Days, Jan. 19.) But another and not improbable ex- 
planation is yet to be noted, which, if it should turn out to be the true 
origin of the saying, will afford a good example of analogy not always 
being the result of imitation. In the Diary of Abraham de la Pryme 
we read, " Scarburg Warning is a proverb in many places of the 
north, signifying any sudden warning given upon any account. Some 
think it arose from the sudden comeing of an enemy against the castle 
there, and, having discharged a broadside, then commands them to 
surrender. Others think that the proverb had its original from other 
things, but all varys. However, this is the true origin thereof: The 
town is a corporation town, and, tho' it is very poor now to what it was 

formerly, yet it has a who is commonly a poor man, they 

haveing no rich ones amongst them. About two days before Michilmass 

day the sayd being arrayed in his gown of state he mounts 

upon horseback, and has his attendants with him, and the macebear[er] 
carrying the mace before him, with two fidlers and a base viol. Thus 
marching in state (as bigg as the lord mare of London) all along the 
shore side, they make many halts, and the cryer crys thus with a 
strange sort of a singing voice, high and low :— 

Whay! Whay! Whay! 
Pay your gavelage ha ! 
Between this and Michaelmas Day, 
Or you'll be fined I say I 

Then the fiddlers begin to dance, and caper, and play, fit to make 
one burst with laughter that sees and hears them. Then they go 
on again and crys as before, with the greatest majesty and gravity 
immaginable, none of this comical crew being seen so much as to 
smile all the time, when us spectators are almost bursten with laughing. 
This is the true origin of the proverb, for this custome of gavelage is 
a certain tribute that every house pays to the when he is 



172 YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 

pleased to call for it, and he gives not above one day warning, and 
may call for it when he pleases." {Diary of A. de la Pryme, p. 126.) 

24. There is a Yorkshire saying applied to a man who quits his 
friends too early at a convivial meeting, that — 

" He will be hanged for leaving his liquor, like the saddler of Bawtry," 

which is thus explained: — Between the city of York and its place of 
execution was an inn, called for many years the " Gallows House," at 
which the procession with condemned persons was accustomed to stop 
that they might regale themselves. The saddler in question however 
refused this refreshment and hastened on to execution. Too late a 
reprieve arrived which would have saved his life had he only waited 
as was usual at the inn. 

25. Dr. Whitaker in his Loidis and Elmete commences the descrip- 
tion of the Vale of Calder by the old distich — 

" Castleford women must needs be fair, 
Because they wash both in Calder and Aire." 

Castleford is an old Roman station at the junction of the two West 
Riding rivers, where the Calder ceases. No reason is given for the 
rhyme, and the ablution would now be of a doubtful nature, as these 
rivers are as black as ink and contain a great portion of the sewage of 
the West Riding. 

26. We hear as a local proverb of " Dunmow bacon and Doncaster 
daggers." 

27:— 

" If Brayton Bargh, and Hamelton Hough, and Burton bream, 
Warr all in thy belly, it would ne'er be team," 

is spoken of a covetous and insatiable person whom nothing will content. 
Brayton, Hamilton, and Burton are all situate between Cawood and 
Pontefract. 

28. The village of Raskelfe, which is usually pronounced Rascall, 
furnishes an instance of what are called People and Steeple rhymes. 
Of this place it is said — 

"A wooden church, a wooden steeple, 
Rascally church, rascally people." 



YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 173 

29. There are also some lines in connection with the church at 

Hornsea, a watering-place in the East Riding. The low square tower 

of this church once bore a tall spire, which fell in a gale in the year 

1773, and there is a local superstition that a stone was found on the 

occasion with the following inscription : — 

" Hornsea broch I built thee, 
Thou wast ten miles from Beverley, 
Ten miles from Bridliugton, 
And ten miles from the sea." 

30. The town of Wetherby has earned from causes not now explain- 
able the following saying, about which information has been asked in 
Notes and Queries (1st series, vii. 233), but with no response : — 

" The woful town o' Wetherby." 

31. The following saying is connected with a very interesting 
tradition : — 

" There are no rats at Hatfield, nor sparrows at Lindholme." 
Abraham de la Pry me probably refers to the tradition in his Diary 
(see p. 146) ; and an account is to be found in Hunter's South York- 
shire (i. 196), and in Stonehouse's Isle of Axholme (p. 393). Near 
Hatfield Woodhouse, in the centre of the Great Hatfield turf- moor, 
were formerly about sixty acres of land, known by the name of Lind- 
holme, '* It is a prevalent opinion," says Hunter, " that here once 
dwelt some extraordinary personage who is known by no other name 
than that of William of Lindholme ; a species of Prospero, who was in 
league with infernal spirits, and who was endued with strength far 
surpassing the ordinary strength of man. Two immense boulder 
stones called { the thumb-stone ' and ' the little finger-stone ' are 
supposed to have been brought hither by him." Amongst the many 
traditionary stories related concerning him is one to the effect that, 
when he was a boy, his parents went to Wroot Feast, and left him to 
keep the sparrows from the corn or hemp-seed. The account is that 
he drove all the sparrows into a barn, which was then being built, and 
still unroofed, and confined them there by placing a harrow against the 
door. After he had done this, William followed his parents to Wroot ; 
and, when scolded for so doing, he said he had fastened up all the 



174 YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 

sparrows in a barn, where they found them on their return in the 
evening, one version says all dead, except a few which were turned 
white. Since this transaction it is said that no sparrows were ever 
seen at Lindholme. 

32. In the Denham Tracts we find — 

" The fairest lady in this land 
Was drowned at Mont Ferrand." 

InLangdale's Topographical History oj Yorkshire, 1822, Mont Ferrand 
is named as a farm-house in the parish of Birdsall, 4| miles from 
Malton, North Riding, while Denham, in his Folk-Lore, mentions it as 
near Beverley, and that foundations of an ancient castle still exist. No 
explanation of the distich is now obtainable. 

33. " You might as well try to bore a hole through Beacon Hill." 

This saying is no doubt in allusion to the Beacon Hill immediately 
adjacent to, and rising to a considerable and precipitous height above, 
the town of Halifax. This hill is described in Wright's History of 
Halifax (1738) " as a high and almost insurmountable rock all over- 
grown with trees and thick underwood mixed with huge and craggy 
stones." The hill is now pierced by a tunnel of one of the West 
Riding Railways for a distance of three-quarters of a mile, on the 
direct route from Leeds and Bradford by the Lancashire and Yorkshire 
Railway to Manchester. 

34. " Birstal for ringers, 

HcckmondwiTte for singers, 
Dewsbury for peddlers, 
Clechheaton for sheddlers." 

All these places are close to each other in the West Riding. To 
sheddle in the Leeds dialect is to swindle. 

35. The shrewd character of Yorkshiremen is demonstrated in the 
saying He's Yorkshire, which is equivalent to " he's a sharp fellow." 

36. Another local trait is expressed in the term, A Yorkshire bite. 
This is a common saying in the county of Durham to caution any one 
who is about to engage in transactions immediately south of the Tees. 
But Mr. Tegg, in his One Hour's Reading, remarks, " The misapplica- 



YORKSHIRE LOCAL RHYMES AND SAYINGS. 175 

tion of the original meaning of this term is very general. We always 
use it to convey a feeling of mistrust, or a fear of coming in contact 
with one more adept in cunning than ourselves. It is true Yorkshire- 
men are keen dealers; this, however, is no detraction; on the contrary, 
it is an evidence of industrious habits. The hospitality for which 
they are so famous gave rise to the term Yorkshire bite. It is said 
the fatted calf and flowing bowl greet the stranger at every step, and 
after the common salutation, the question, 'Will you bite?' or 'Will 
you sup?' is sure to follow ; and from this originated a term, used as a 
sarcasm, but which, in point of fact, derived as it is, ought to be used 
as a compliment." 

37. The saying, Go to Yorkshire ! is explained as meaning that each 
one of a party is to pay his or her own share of the reckoning. 

38. A Yorkshire way bit is an overplus, according to Ray, not 
accounted in the reckoning, which sometimes proves as much as all 
the rest. Ask a countryman how many miles it is to such a town, 
and he will return commonly so many miles and a way-bit (i. e. wee 
bit). 



DIVINATION BY THE BLADE-BONE. 



N the curious old French Romance of Eustache le Moine, 
which M. Francisque Michel edited in 1834, the hero is 
described as having been at Toledo, 
" Ou il ot apris nigremanche ; " 
and among other powers there acquired, 

"Et par l'espaule au monton, 
Faisoit pertes rendre a fuison."— lines 21-2. 

The learned editor passed over this passage without illustration or 
comment, and the following note upon this species of divination was 
written by me about the time the book was published, 1834, when I 
frequently visited the shop of the worthy bibliophile referred to, who 
possessed a good deal of curious out-of-the-way information. 

Knowing that Mr. Donald McPherson, a bookseller of Chelsea, 
who was a Highlander born, was well acquainted with the Highland 
custom of divining by the shoulder-of-mutton bone, I applied to him 
for information illustrative of the practice, and by his permission tran- 
scribed the following note, from a manuscript account by him of the 
superstitions of his countrymen. 

"Among the Druids, as among every other priesthood, Divination 
was reduced to a system. It is known that Khabdomancy, Geomancy, 
and Chiromancy were practised among them. Whether Augury or 
Divination by the flight and chirping of birds was practised by them 
we cannot well say, though it is likely it was, as in some old tales we 
are told ' the birds once spoke Gaelic' Of Haruspice, or divination by 
the entrails and other parts of the animals sacrificed, one remnant has 
come down to us pretty entire. It is unnecessary to quote Scripture 
in order to show that it was the practice of the Ancients to sacrifice on 



DIVINATION BY THE BLADE-BONE. 177 

high places and in graves, as the numerous passages to that effect 
mentioned in the Old Testament must be familiar to every one. Hence 
I am inclined to think a high place in the Gaelic is called Aridh, from 
Ar, to slay; whence also comes Ara, an altar, and Aireach, the super- 
intendent of the chief's cattle, the slayer also or Haruspex, who con- 
tinued in my time, that is as long as the occupation lasted, to be the 
family butcher, as well as the general superintendent of a gentleman's 
live stock, and the remnant of Haruspicy which has come down to us 
has come through the word Airich, that is, divination by the shoulder- 
blade. This was called Slinnairachd, from Slinnig, the shoulder. In 
Badenach, a central and isolated, though large, district of Inverness- 
shire, until lately there were men skilled in this sort of divination. I 
mention the custom here because the sacrifices offered on Nollig and 
Callaiwn, i.e. Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, were those from 
which the knowledge of future events could properly be drawn. The 
last man in the parish of Laggan who was skilled in Slinnaireachd 
died about 70 years ago. His name was MacTavish, and he had been 
many years Aireach to Mr. MacDonald, of Gallovie. There are many 
w r onderful stories told of this man's skill in his art. The following I 
have often heard related, and once by a man worthy of credit> who 
averred he had been an eye-witness to it. The fame of MacTavish 
had travelled to distant parts of the country, and, having come to the 
ears of a rival diviner, the latter determined to have ocular proofs of 
his proficiency. For this purpose he took a journey of many miles, 
and on his arrival at Gallovie announced his errand, and was directed 
to the house of his brother soothsayer, where of course he was made 
heartily welcome. Mr. MacDonald invited several of his friends to 
dine with him on New Year's night, and took care to have the two 
diviners of the company. 

"After dinner a shoulder-blade was presented to the stranger, and 
he was requested to declare the result of his inspection, be it good or 
bad. After having pored over it for a certain time he was observed 
to change colour, and at first he refused to tell what had so affected 
him ; but, when pressed, he positively asserted that some one should be 
hanged on that domain before morning. The company were of course 

N 



178 DIVINATION BY THE BLADE-BONE. 

variously affected by this declaration ; some believed it and were 
alarmed ; some did not, but had good manners enough not to turn it 
into ridicule. They however agreed in one thing, to let MacTavish 
re-inspect the blade. He did inspect it, and declared his satisfaction 
at the skill discovered by the stranger, but added that he had made a 
slight mistake, for that the ill-fated creature that was to be hanged 
could be no other than the devil himself, for that it had horns and 
hoofs. ' But,' said he, jocularly, ' no doubt my friend also has dis- 
covered these Satanic characteristics, though politeness towards two of 
the present company has induced him to conceal the fact;' and he 
bowed to the minister of the parish and to a Catholic priest who hap- 
pened to be present. The night passed; but early on the next morning, 
as MacTavish went his rounds, he found a favourite yearling bull 
hanged and quite dead. He had put his head through between the 
bars of a ladder, and, as he was struggling to free himself, the heavy 
ladder fell across a deep foss, over which the animal was left sus- 
pended. 

" Before the shoulder-blade is inspected, the whole of the flesh must 
be stripped clean off, without the use of any metal, either by a bone, or 
a hard wooden knife, or by the teeth. Most of the discoveries are 
made by inspecting the spots that may be observed in the semi-trans- 
parent part of the blade; but very great proficients penetrate into 
futurity through the opaque parts also. Nothing can be known that 
may happen beyond the circle of the ensuing year. The discoveries 
made have relation to the person for whom or by whom the sacrifice is 
offered." 

Mr. MacPherson, who was a good linguist and well versed in Celtic 
antiquities, told me that when in Greece with his regiment, for he was 
formerly in one of the Highland regiments, he discovered that the 
same mode of divination prevailed in that country; and, being himself 
somewhat of an adept in the art, he had a trial of skill with a Greek 
priest, who likewise understood it, which ended in his (MacPherson) 
displaying so much talent as to be ever after looked upon by the simple 
inhabitants of the village as a sort of conjuror. 

Since writing the above, I discovered two passages on this subject 



DIVINATION BY THE BLADE-BONE. 179 

of Divination by the Shoulder-blade in that curious book (of which 100 
copies were printed in 1815, under the editorship of Sir Walter Scott, 
from a MS. in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh), Kirk's Essay on 
the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean, and (for the most part) 
Invisible People heretofore going under the name of Elves, Faunes, and 
Fairies, fyc. 

" The minor sort of Seers prognosticat many future events, only for 
a months space, from the shoulder-bone of a sheep on which a knife 
never came, for (as before is said, and the Nazarits of old had some- 
thing of it) iron hinders all the operations of those that travell in the 
Intrigues of these hidden Dominions. By looking into the Bone, they 
will tell if whoredome be committed in the owners House; what money 
the master of the sheep had ; if any will die out of that House for that 
moneth ; and if any cattel there will take a Trake, as if Planet-struck. 
Then will they prescribe a Preservative and Prevention." — page 17, 
par. 13. 

u There is another kind of Divination, by looking in the shoulder- 
blade of a sheep, goat, &c. as in a Book, by which some skilfull in 
that occult science pretend to read future Events, such as the Death of 
some remarkable Person in a particular tribe or family ; foretell general 
Meetings, Battles, Bloodsheds, etc. and in what quarter of the kingdom 
or country they are to happen : and besides , will describe what nume- 
rate Money is to be found in the custody of the owner of the sheep, &c. 
I had several instances of this kind told me, that were vouched to con- 
viction, which I omit, as it is beyond my present Purpose to enlarge 
further on the subject, but leave it to the curious." — Par. lxxxi. p. 83, 
Appendix : Extracts from a Treatise on the Second Sight, Dreams, 
Apparitions, &c. f by Theophilus Insulanus. 8vo. Edinburgh, 1763. 

Let me refer any reader desirous of knowing more of this wide- 
spread form of divination to Sir Henry Ellis's edition of Brand's 
Popular Antiquities, iii. 179-80, ed. 1842, and to much curious infor- 
mation respecting Spatulamancia, as it is called by Hartlieb, and 
an analogous species of divination, " ex anserino sferno" to Grimm's 
Deutsche Mythologie, s. 1067-8, 2 te , Ausg. 

William J. Thoms. 

n2 



INDEX TO THE FOLK-LORE IN THE FIRST SERIES 
OF HARDWICKE'S SCIENCE-GOSSIP, Vols. 1—12 
(3865—1876). 

By James Biutten, F.L.S. 




|T appears tome that the Folk-Lore Society may do a useful 
work by publishing extracts connected with Folk-Lore 
from books which would not be likely to come in the 
way of the ordinary student of the subject, or, in the case 
of existing obtainable works, by furnishing information as to where 
such material may be found. In this belief I have gone through 
the first series of Hardwicke's Science-Gossip, and have made an 
Index of all the passages which bear upon folk-lore. As might be 
expected, nearly all of these are connected with natural history ; many 
of them contain nothing new, but may be useful in tracing out the 
distribution of a superstition. I have omitted any reference to a few 
well-known passages quoted from works which are more or less 
familiar to the student of folk-lore — such as, for example, Gerard's 
account of the barnacle goose — as quotations at second-hand are 
seldom altogether satisfactory ; and I believe the present Index 
contains all the original and personally authenticated folk-lore which 
is contained in the twelve volumes forming the first series. Nearly 
all the communications are signed ; for some, to which only the 
initial " B. " is affixed, I am myself responsible. I may add that 
I have given, by means of a cross reference, an index locojmm, which 
will be useful to some Members. 

Acorns, when plentiful, a sign of bad bacon (Yorkshire), v. 23, 45. 
Ague, remedies for, in Lincolnshire, ii. 83 ; iii. 117; in Kent, ix. 45. 
America, hydrophobia in, vii. 213; viii. 20. 
April Fool's Day, Guernsey custom on, xii. 161. 



INDEX TO THE FOLK-LORE IN HARDWICKE's SCIENCE-GOSSIP. 181 

Ash -tree connected with wart -cure in Cheshire, i. 85. 
weather-lore of (York), iv. 232. 

Bean-swads a cure for warts in Yorkshire, iii. 177; in Denbighshire, 

viii. 283. 
Bees must not be bought (Cheshire), iii. 86. 

telling them of a death, iv. 283. 

singing to, when hiving, in N. Wales, vi. 167. 

frogs obnoxious to, xii. 93. 

Beetles, prejudice against in Staffordshire, v. 129. 
Birds poisoning their young, ii. 141, 167, 189, 190, 238. 

pair on Saint Valentine's Day (Yorkshire), iii. 177. 

Blackbird singing before Candlemas, xii. 118. 

Bramble, marking of leaves a sign of sickness (Wales), iii. 212. 

Brome-grass (Bromus secalinus) thought to be degenerated oats in 

Cheshire, iii. 87. 
Bucks, see Epilepsy, Slow-worm. 

Candlemas, blackbird or thrush singing before (Ireland, co. Tyrone), 

xii. 118. 
Cat sitting with back to fire a sign of rain, iii. 46, 190. 

before a storm, v. 116, 164, 167. 

Caterpillars appearing in great numbers considered ominous in 
Ireland, ii. 133. 

a cure for whooping-cough, viii. 215. 

unlucky, xii. 69. 

Celery, when believed poisonous in Antrim, vi. 139. 

Cheshire, see Bees, Brome-grass, Darnel, Dock-leaves, Donkey, 

Epilepsy, Finger, Freckles, Frog, Hedgehog, Nails, Thrush, 

Warts, Whooping-cough. 
Cornwall, see Cows, Goatsucker, Hedgehog, Snake. 
Cows, supposed to be sucked by goatsucker (Cornwall), iii. 183 ; and 

by hedgehog (Yorkshire, iii. 177 ; Cornwall, 183). 
Cricket, unlucky to kill (Wales), iii. 281. 
Cuckoo, " as scabbed as a," Yorkshire saying, ii. 184. 
Yorkshire folk-lore of, iii. 1 77. 



182 INDEX TO THE FOLK-LORE IN 

Darnel, thought to be degenerated wheat in Cheshire, iii. 87. 
Danes, tutsan berries stained with blood of (Hampshire), vi. 281. 
Death, telling bees of, iv. 283. 
Death-omens, hawthorn, ii. 83. 

robin, ii. 166. 

Death at turn of tide (Yorkshire), iii. 177. 

Denbighshire, see Bean-sivads, Seventh Son, Sloe. 

Devil's Coach-horse (Ocypus olens), accursed in Ireland, xii. 69. 

Devonshire, see Eyes, Kenning -stone, Viper. 

Dock-leaves applied to nettle-stings in Essex, ii. 83 ; in Cheshire, 

iii. 86, and Yorkshire, iii. 177, viii. 238, 262. 
Donkey, hair from, as cure for whooping-cough (Cheshire), iii. 86 ; 

(Dorset), v. 165. 

-cross on back of (Yorkshire), iii. 177. 

-riding on, a Dorset prevention of whooping-cough, v. 262. 

■passing under, a cure for whooping-cough, viii. 215. 



Dorsetshire, see Donkey, Mole, Toothache, Whooping-cough, 
Dun Cow, legend of, vi. 23, 38, 64, 69, 94. 

Eels not in season when beans are in flower (Yorkshire), iii. 177. 

horsehair believed to turn into, i. 107; vii. 142. 

Elm, weather Folk-lore regarding, iii. 166. 
Epilepsy, remedies for in Cheshire, i. 85 ; ii. 83. 
Erysipelas, Herb Robert a S. Wales cure for, v. 191. 
Essex, see Dock-leaves, Hawthorn. 

Evil Eye, believed in in Ireland (co. Tyrone), x. 238. 
Eyes, sore, a Devonshire cure for, xii. 93. 

Finger (the first) thought venomous in Cheshire, iii. 86. 

Fits, wood-louse a Yorkshire remedy for, iii. 177. 

Flax, steeped, influenced by moon (Ireland, co. Tyrone), ix. 211. 

should be sown before Good Friday (Ireland, co. Tyrone), x. 

238. 

Fox, Irish Folk-lore of, vi. 166. 
Foxglove, Folk-lore of, vi. 135, 166. 



THE FIRST SERIES OF HARDWICKE's SCIENCE-GOSSIP. 183 

Freckles, Cheshire belief about, iii. 86. 

Frog, used in Cheshire as a cure for the thrush, i. 85. 

obnoxious to bees, xii. 93. 

Goatsucker, supposed in Cornwall to suck cows, iii. 183. 
Glow-worm, sign of damp weather, v. 45. 

Good Friday, flax to be sown before (Ireland, co. Tyrone), x. 238. 
Goose, excrement of, a Staffordshire cure for jaundice, v. 141. 
Goose-grass, (Galium Aparine) employed in Guernsey on April 1st, 

xii. 161. 
Guernsey, see Goose-grass. 

Haddock, marks on, iii. 177. 

Hair (human and donkey's) connected with Cheshire cure fur 
whooping-cough, iii. 86; also used in Dorset, v. 165. 

Hairworm (Gordius aquaticus), i. 107; vii. 142, 165. 

Hampshire, see Danes. 

Hawthorn, considered unlucky in Essex, ii. 83 ; in Kent, xi. 71. 

fruit of, a sign of severe winter, v. 71. 

Hedgehog used in Cheshire as a cure for epilepsy, i. 85. 

supposed to suck cows in Yorkshire, iii. 177 ; and Corn- 
wall, iii. 183. 

Herb-Eobert, employed in erysipelas (Wales), v. 191. 

Herring, squeaking before death, iv. 45. 

Horsehair believed to " turn into an eel," i. 107 ; (Monmouthshire), 
vii. 142. 

Hydrophobia, prevention of, in America, vii. 213 ; viii. 20. 

Ireland, see Candlemas, Caterpillars, Celery, DeviVs Coach-horse, 

Evil Eye, Flax, Fox, Foxglove. 
Isle of Man, see Ragwort. 

Jaundice, a Staffordshire cure for, v. 141. 

Jay, connected in Bucks with a cure for epilepsy, ii. 83. 

Kenning-stone, a Devonshire cure for sore eyes, xii. 93. 
Kent, see Ague, Hawthorn, Ladybirds, Nails, Slow-worm, 



1 84 INDEX TO THE FOLK-LORE IN 

Lady-birds, large numbers of, considered forerunners of evil in Kent 
and Sussex, ii. 170. 

Yorkshire Folk-lore of, iii. 177. 

Leicestershire, see Silverweed. 
Lincolnshire, see Ague, Robin, Spider, 

Mole, a cure for ague, iii. 117. 

claws of, a Dorsetshire cure for toothache, v. 263. 

Money, spitting upon (Yorkshire), iii. 177. 

Monmouthshire, see Horsehair. 

Moon, influence of on steeped flax (Ireland, co. Tyrone), ix. 211. 

Mountain-ash, connected in Cheshire with cure for whooping-cough, 

iii. 86. 
Mouse, roasted, a Yorkshire cure for whooping-cough, iii. 177. 

Nails, unlucky to cut (Cheshire), iii. 86 ; cutting on Wednesday a 

cure for ague (Kent), ix. 45. 
Nettle, planted near hives, xii. 93. 

stings, dock leaves applied to, see Dock-leaves. 

Newt, reputed poisonous, in Staffordshire, v. 129. 
Norfolk, see Rat. 

Oats, degenerated, see Brome-grass. 

Onions favouring infection, iv. 215 ; a Kent cure for ague, ix. 45. 

Orchis growing on Mount Calvary, i. 114. 

Oxfordshire, see Viper. 

Pigeon-feathers not used for beds in Yorkshire, iii. 177. 

Parsley, xi. 189. 

Plantain (Plantago media) hair on leaf of used as a love-charm 

(E. Suffolk), v. 114. 
toad healing itself by use of, xi. 21, 70. 

Ragwort (Senecio Jacobcea), a protection against infectious diseases 
(Isle of Man), vii. 215. 



THE FIRST SERIES OF HARDWICKE's SCIENCE-GOSSIP. 185 

Rat, tail of, considered venomous in Norfolk, ii. 140 ; iii. 2 GO. 
Robin, the " bird of death," ii. 166. 

unlucky to take, etc. (N. Lincolnshire), xi. 263. 

Rooks do not breed till two years old (Yorkshire), iii. 177. 



Seventh Son, whooping-cough cured by, in Denbighshire, viii. 282. 

Shepherd's Purse (Capsella Bursa-pastoris) prejudice against (War- 
wickshire), xi. 94. 

Silverweed (Potentilla anserina) used in Leicestershire for removing 
marks of smallpox, ii. 163. 

Sloe, a cure for whooping-cough (Denbighshire), viii. 283. 

Slow-worm, will not die till sunset (Bucks), ii. 83. 

rhyme on, in Kent, vii. 93. 

Snake will not die till sundown (Cornwall), iii. 183. 

Welsh, legend of, iii. 237. 

Spider, a cure for ague (Kent), ix. 45 ; web of, a Lincolnshire cure 
for ague, ii. 83. 

Squirrel, (the Ogress), American Indian legend of, ii. 3. 

Staffordshire, see Beetles, Goose, Newt. 

Suffolk, see Plantain. 

Sussex, see Ladybirds, Whooping-cough. 

Thrush, frog used as a cure for, in Cheshire, i. 85. 

every one must have it (Cheshire), iii. 86. 

Thrush (the bird) acquiring new legs, iii. 141. 

singing before Candlemas, xii. 118. 

Toad healing itself by use of plantain, xi. 21, 70. 
Toothache, Dorsetshire cure for, v. 263. 

Turtledove, pairing " for life " (North of England), v. 142. 
Tutsan {Hypericum Androsamium), berries of, stained with blood of 
the Danes, vi. 281. 

Valentine's (St.) day, birds pair on, iii. 177. 

Viper, fat of, a cure for its bite (Oxfordshire), xi. 143; for other 
wounds (South Devon), xi. 166. 



186 INDEX TO THE FOLK-LORE IN HARDWICKE's SCIENCE-GOSSir. 

Wales, see Bees, Bramble, Cricket, Herb-Robert, Snake. 
Wauts, Cheshire cure for, i. 85. 

bean-swads a Yorkshire cure for, iii. 177. 

Warwickshire, see Shepherd's Purse. 
Weather-lore of Ash-tree, iv. 232. 

Cat, iii. 46, 90 ; v. 116, 164, 167. 

Elm, iii. 166. 

Glow-worm, v. 45. 

Hawthorn fruit, v. 71. 

Wheat, darnel thought to be degenerated, iii. 87. 
Whooping-cough, remedies for in Cheshire, iii. 86, and Yorkshire, 
177; in Sussex, v. 164; viii. 215, 282.' 

prevention of, in Dorset, v. 363. 

Wood-louse, a remedy for fits in Yorkshire, iii. 177. 
Wood-pigeon, cry of, viii. 165, 236 ; ix. 21, 71, 93. 

Yorkshire, see Acorns, Ash-tree, Birds, Cuckoo, Death, Dock-leaves, 
Donkey, Eels, Haddock, Hedgehog, Ladybirds, Money, 
Mouse, Pigeon-feathers, Rooks, Warts, Whooping-cough, 
Wood-louse. 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 




ENDRILLON and Le Chat Botte, which in Perrault's pages 
have charmed Europe for centuries, are known to have 
their doubles in the Cenerentola and Gagliuso of the 
Pentamerone. This fact is of itself something more than 
an indication that there must be, as between French and Italian folk- 
lore, a connection which should extend beyond these charming little 
romances. More general evidence, however, upon this point has been 
hitherto wanting. 

But the question thus raised is no longer to be discussed upon such 
restricted material. The recent compilation of Italian folk-lore by 
Signor Comparetti and his confreres has furnished satisfactory proof 
that between the folk-lore of the two countries there is a close and 
well-defined affinity. On this and many other grounds the collection 
to which I allude* is a much more acceptable contribution to this kind 
of literature than the pleasant tales of Basile and others, though con- 
fessedly founded upon such old-world stories. For, unlike the Pen- 
tamerone, the narrations of Signor Comparetti and his friends have 
been taken down in the best faith from rustic tale-tellers in every 
quarter of the peninsula. 

In his pages we of course miss (for this very reason), though not 
altogether, the arch felicity of Perrault and the sparkling turns of 
Basile. But, even where these fail, we know that in what Signor 
Comparetti has taken down there is neither interpolation nor fraud. 
His tales are the genuine traditions of the country side. In them there 
is no such literary figment as Mr. Keightley, by his own confession, 

* Novelline popolari Italiane, publicate ed illustrate da JDomenico Compa- 
retti. Volume prime*. Roma, Torino, Firenze. A second volume will follow. 



188 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

palmed off on Mr. Crofton Croker,* for publication in his Fairy 
Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, and which the un- 
suspecting Brothers Grimm did their best to disseminate. In the 
interests of truth and philosophy, the simple idyl about the Cluri- 
caune, which Molly Cogan told Mr. Coote of Kilmallock,f heavily out- 
weighs in worth the false, though brilliantly-told, story of the " Soul 
Cages, " upon which Mr. Keightley wasted his talents. 

Signor Comparetti's collection consists of seventy tales. With it as 
a whole I have no business at present, my only intention being to deal 
with those stories which have their counterparts in France, and not 
with all of these. 

The Cenerentola. -There was once a man and a woman that had two 
daughters, one more beautiful than the other : one of these girls kept 
always in the chimney corner, and for this they called her the Ceneren- 
tola. Her mother did not mind this at all, and every morning sent her 
out with some ducks that she had, and gave her a pound of hemp to spin. 
One morning, being with the ducks, she arrives at a ditch, and sends 
them into the water, telling them in a rhyme of her own composition 
not to drink it if it is troubled, but if it is clear to drink emulously. 
Scarcely had she said the words than she sees a little old woman 
standing before her. " Oh, what art thou doing here ? " says the 
little old woman. " I have led these ducks out, and I have got to 
spin this pound of flax." " Oh, why do they make thee do these 
things ? " " It is mother's wish." " Oh, does she never send thy 
sister out with the ducks ? " " Never." " Come, my little dear, I 
will make thee a present. Take this comb, and try and comb thy- 
self." She gave her a comb, and the Cenerentola first combed herself 
on one side, and whilst she was combing herself corn came down out 
of her hair in quantities, and the ducks set to work eating it until 

* Keightley's Fairy Mythology (p. 536, in note, Bonn's edition), and Croker's 
Fairy Legends (Murray's edition, vol. ii. p. 30). Mr. Keightley says, " Wo mut 
here make an honest confession. This story had no foundation hut the German 
legend in p. 259. All that is not to he found there is our own invention. Yi t ire 
afterwards found that it was nuil-knoirn an the coast of Cork and \\ ic/daic." 
These italics are not Mr. Keightley's. 

f Croker's Legends, vol. i. p. 211 (The Little Shoe). 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 189 

they could eat no longer (a crepapancia). Then she combs herself on 
the other side, and there came down out of her hair brilliants and 
rubies. Then the old woman takes out a box and gives it to her, 
saying, " Come, put the brilliants and rubies in this, take them home 
and hide them well in your little trunk." " But now I have got to 
spin the hemp," said the girl. " Don't give thyself trouble. I am 
thinking of that," and she strikes with a little wand that she had in 
her hand and says, " I command that the hemp be spun," and in an 
instant the hemp was spun. " Now go home," said the little old 
woman, " and return here every day and thou wilt find me." The 
Cenerentol a returned and said nothing, and kept always in the chimney 
corner. Every morning she returned to the place and saw the little 
old woman, and the little old woman made her comb herself, and spun 
the hemp for her. One morning, after the hemp was spun, the little 
old woman said to her, " Listen, this evening the king's son gives a 
ball, and he has invited thy father, thy mother, and thy sister, and 
they will tell thee in jest that thou may'st go to it if thou likest, but 
say that thou dost not wish to go to it. Here is a little bird, hide it 
in thy room, and this evening, when they shall have gone away, go to 
the little bird, and say to him thus: 'Little bird Verdirio, make me 
more beautiful than I can conceive,' and thou wilt see thyself all at 
once ready dressed for the ball ; and take also this little wand, 
strike with it, and there will appear a coach. Go to the ball and no 
one will recognise thee, and the king's son will dance with thee ; 
but mind, when they shall go to the refreshment room, call the coach 
and go away, taking care that nobody sees where thou goest. Then 
return to the little bird and say to him thus : ' Little bird Verdirio, 
make me more ugly than I can conceive,' and thou wilt be the same 
as before. Go back to thy chimney corner and say nothing." The 
girl took the little bird, carried it home and hid it in the trunk. The 
mother, when she saw her come back, said to her, " Thou knowest we 
are invited to the king's son's ball. "Would'st thou wish to go there 
too?" "Not I indeed;," answered she; "amuse yourselves while I 
stay at home." And in the evening they went away and left her by 
the side of the ashes. They were scarcely out of the house when she 



190 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

goes up to the little bird, and does all that the little old woman had 
told her ; and when she was at the ball the king's son danced with 
her and fell in love with her. But when the time for the refreshment 
came, she enters her coach and away home. When the King's son 
lost sight of her, he had her sought for everywhere, but she was not 
found, and no one knew who she was, and where she lived. Hoping 
at least that she would come again if he gave another ball, the king's 
son made it known to all the guests before they went away that to- 
morrow evening he invited them all to another ball. 

The father, mother, and sister return home and find the Cenerentola 
in the chimney corner. " It has been a lovely ball," said the mother 
to her, *' and there was a lady there that was a beauty, and it is 
not known who she was. If thou had'st only seen how beautiful 
she was!" ''That does not concern me at all," answered the 
Cenerentola. " See," said the mother, u to-morrow there will be 
another ball, thou too can'st go to it." " No, no ; I will stop in the 
chimney corner and be , comfortable." Next morning she goes out 
with the ducks as usual, and finds the old woman. " It went off 
well," said she; "this evening go there again and do as thou did'st 
yesterday. But mind, thou wilt see that they will follow thee when 
thou goest. Then strike with the little wand, and g*ve the command : 
* Money.' Take the money and throw it away from the coach. They 
will stop to pick it up and will lose sight of thee." When the evening 
was come the father and mother and sister went to the ball and left 
her at home. The little bird made her become even more beautiful 
than before. She went, and the king's son was quite pleased when he 
saw her and danced with her. He had given orders to the servants to 
keep their eyes upon her. Accordingly, at the refreshment time, when 
she got into her coach, they began running after it, but she threw 
down so much money, and they kept picking it up, that they lost sight 
of her. The king's son in despair determined to give a third ball the 
next day. The mother, on her return, told the Cenerentola that the 
next day there would be a third ball, but she pretended not to wish to 
know about it. Next morning she goes out with the ducks and finds 
the old woman. " So far it has succeeded, but mind, this evening 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 191 

thou shalt have a dress with little gold bells and little gold slippers 
also ; thou wilt see them follow thee ; throw a slipper and money at 
them ; but now they will discover where thou goest in." Accordingly, 
when it was evening and she remained behind, the only one at home, 
the little bird gave her a magnificent dress covered with little gold bells, 
and also little gold slippers that were a wonder. The king's son 
danced with her and became more and more in love with her. When 
she was about to get into her coach as usual, the servants followed her 
at a distance ; she got in and went off, and the servants after her. 
She threw out money and one of her gold slippers. But the servants 
had been told by the king that if they did not discover where that 
lady lived they should suffer death, so they did not pay any attention 
to the money. One picked up the slipper, and they all ran so fast 
that at last they saw where the coach stopped. They told this to the 
king and they brought him the slipper, and the king rewarded them 
well. The morning after, the girl goes out with the ducks and meets 
the old woman. The latter says to her, " Thou wilt have to make 
haste this morning, the king (so) is coming to fetch thee." She straight- 
way gave her the comb and the box, and spun the hemp and sent hei 
home. The mother had scarcely seen her when she said, " How is it 
thou comest back so soon this morning ?" " Go and see the ducks 
how full they are," answered she. The mother saw how full the ducks 
were and was silent. At noon the king's son arrives, and all run 
down except the Cenerentola. While they are below she goes to the 
little bird and says, " Little bird Verdirib, make me more beautiful 
than I can conceive." And the little bird gives her back the dress 
with the little gold bells and the one gold slipper for her foot. 
The king, meanwhile, asks the man, " How many daughters have 
you ?" ** One, only ; here she is." " What ! you have no other ?" 
" Yes, your majesty, I have another, but I am ashamed to say she is 
always in the chimney corner ; she is all over ashes." " Be that as it 
may, go and call her here," said the prince ; and the father called her, 
M Ohi, Cenerentola, come down for a bit." She comes down, and 
the little bells at each step make a jingling noise. " See, stupid," said 
the mother, " she has dragged down the shovel and the tongs." But 



192 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

she had scarcely appeared, beautifully dressed as she was, when all 
were struck with astonishment (rimasero). The prince said, "There 
she is, she whom I was in search of. She lacks nothing but one 
little gold slipper. Let us see if perchance this is the one.'' And he 
took out of his pocket the little gold slipper and gave it to Cenerentola, 
who blushed deeply and put it on her foot, and saw it was really her 
own. Then the king's son asked her in marriage, and the father and 
mother could not say no. The Cenerentola took with her the little 
bird and all her riches which she had had from the little old woman 
and went away with the king's son. The marriage was magnificently 
celebrated, and they gave the father, mother, and sister money, and 
treated them well, as if they had always been kind to her. 

This tale comes from Pisa. It is an old tradition of Tuscany, at the 
same time that it is an equally old wives' tale of France— of Brittany, 
where Perrault heard it, and committed it to writing. 

The reader will have seen that the Cenerentola's slipper is of gold 
in this Italian version, as it is in its German form, probably taken 
direct from Italy, while Perrault has given the improbable reading of 
" pantoufle de verre." This reading Mr. Planche has justified as 
11 representing allegorically the extreme fragility of woman's reputation 
and the prudence of flight before it is too late." * But, if folk-lore has 
such deep meaning in one case, it must be equally profound in 
another. What, then, is shadowed forth in a gold slipper ? 

More probably, however, il pantoufle de verre " is only an inven- 
tion, or perhaps a mistake, of M. Perrault, for pantoufle de vair. 

Ugly Gourd. — A certain king was so grieved at the approaching end 
of his queen, that he vowed he would never marry again. The dying queen 
begged him not to make so rash a vow, as they had only one little girl, and 
it was his duty to provide an heir to the throne. u Take another wife," 
said she, "who shall be your equal, and whose finger this ring shall fit." 
Saying this she took off her wedding ring, and, giving it to her husband, 
expired. The king threw it into a little box, and locked it up in a 
chest, and thought no more of it. One day when the princess, who 
• Fairy Tales of Perrault and others, p. 521. 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 193 

had then attained the age of seventeen, was rummaging through this 
chest she found the ring, which fitted her finger, and ran in great 
glee to show it him. The king, however, thinking that this was 
what his wife had prophesied, immediately proposed marriage to his 
daughter. The horrified young princess seeks the advice of her nurse, 
who recommends that she shall promise to marry her father, provided 
he shall present her with such and such dresses, — dresses which the 
nurse thought it impossible to procure. They are, however, all in turn 
procured, and the princess has no further excuse to offer, and the 
marriage is fixed. Nothing remains but to run away in disguise from 
the palace, and this is arranged by the faithful nurse. ■ The disguise 
was this : the princess should put on a cambric dress, stitched all over 
with pieces of dried gourd. When she had put this on she looked 
like a great walking pumpkin. Besides this the princess took with 
her some money and the three beautiful dresses that her father had 
given her. The princess and the nurse left the palace, and travelled 
many days, until they found themselves in a city. The king's son, 
who was standing at the gate of the palace with his knights, saw the 
pair, and was so astonished at the princess's appearance that he sent 
after them to inquire of the nurse, " Whence come you ? who is she ? 
what's her name ? " The nurse replies, *' Ah, your majesty, we come 
from a distance seeking our fortunes. She that is with me is named 
Ugly Gourd." The prince is so amused at this that he offers to take 
Ugly Gourd into his service as a stable-help and scullion. The offer is 
readily accepted. The nurse went away about her business, and the 
princess commenced her new duties. The prince became very 
familiar with Ugly Gourd, finding her clever and amusing in con- 
versation. One day he says to her in the kitchen that it is his custom 
to give three balls every year, and asks her to come to the first ; as he 
said so he tapped her knees with the fire-shovel which she had just 
taken up. " You are joking," says Ugly Gourd ; " who am I, to go 
to a ball ? " On the night of the first ball there was a great assemblage 
of ladies and gentlemen dancing away as hard as they could, when 
suddenly a lady enters in a silk dress the colour of the air and 
bestrewn with the stars of the heavens, with a face of paradise, and 

O 



194 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

fair hair all down her shoulders. Everybody is struck, the prince 
especially. He runs up to her, gives her his arm, dances with her, 
and devours her all the time with his eyes. He asks her her name, 
who she is, and where she comes from ; but all he can get from her is, 
u I am from Rap Shovel upon the Knees." The prince cannot make 
out where this country is, but to show his pleasure at meeting her he 
gives her a gold hairpin, which he then and there puts into her 
tresses. He turns away to take some refreshment, and she avails her- 
self of the opportunity to go away unnoticed by any one. The next 
day the prince, who from anxiety and love has never been to bed, 
looks up Ugly Gourd in the kitchen, and tells her all that has hap- 
pened. " To-night, however, comes off my second ball, and if the 
unknown lady makes her appearance again I will find out who she is." 
He then invites Ugly Gourd to the ball, and whilst he is speaking taps 
her over the shoulders with his riding-whip. In the evening, when 
the ball is at its. best, enters the same lady as before, but more splen- 
didly dressed than ever, foiwshe has on a silk dress the colour of sea- 
water, with ever so many goldfishes swimming about in it. She creates 
as much sensation as before, and the king's son goes up to her, gives 
her his arm, dances with her, and asks her name, her condition, and 
where she comes from. Her only answer is that her country is called 
" Rap Whip upon the Shoulders." The prince gives her a stone ring 
with his name engraved on the stone. Ugly Gourd afterwards gets away 
unnoticed, as she did on the first occasion. The next morning the king's 
son, who is completely in love (innamorato cotto), goes down into the 
kitchen again, and tells Ugly Gourd all that has happened, and whilst 
speaking raps her over the feet with the tongs which he has taken up. 
The third ball came off, and Ugly Gourd made a greater sensation than 
even at the second, by wearing a dress interwoven with little bells and 
chains of gold. To the old question where she came from, she 
answers, "The country where I come from is called Rap Tongs upon 
the Feet." At this answer the king's son disconsolately bent his head 
over his hands, and when he raised it the lady was gone. Before this 
he gave her a medallion portrait of himself. He now fell ill, and 
would neither eat nor drink. He took to his bed, the Court physicians 
were called in, and saw that it was melancholy, and there was no cure 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 195 

for that. One morning he sent for his mamma, and told her he had a 
wish. '* What is it, my dear ?" said she. " I want some herb soup, 
and Ugly Gourd must make it." It was no use expostulating with him 
upon the unfitness of Ugly Gourd to make it. He insisted that she 
should. Accordingly the queen mother went down into the kitchen, 
where she found Ugly Gourd, and gave her the order. When the 
queen was gone away Ugly Gourd made the soup, and, having put the 
gold hairpin into it, sent it up by a servant. When he had taken the 
soup, and found the hairpin in it, he asked for more, and twice soup 
was sent up to him, the one containing his ring and the other his 
portrait. Upon this he gets up, goes downstairs, and asks Ugly 
Gourd who gave these. " I received them from your own hands," says 
she. The whole story then comes out. The prince and princess are 
married. Her father is invited to the feast, and recognises Ugly 
Gourd as his daughter on her producing her mother's ring. 

There is another story resembling this in Signor Comparetti's 
collection called ft Occhi Marci.'' They come respectively from 
Montale, and both stories are the famous French " Peau d'ane," which 
is always in France published in company with Perrault's contes, 
though most probably he did not write it. 

Queen Angelica. — In this tale an old king falls blind, and no one 
can cure him. One day a physician says, " There is no remedy for 
this but the water of Queen Angelica ; if it can be found the king will 
get well for certain." Thereupon the king's son goes in search of it. 
After a great many hardships he is enabled, through the unwonted 
good nature of an ogre, who takes a fancy to him, to find out the 
queen's palace. At the entrance there were two lions and two tigers. 
These he sets asleep by throwing bread, &c, to them. He enters the 
palace. Queen Angelica is lying on a bed sleeping, covered with 
seven veils. He lifts the veils, and sees that she is so beautiful that 
he cannot refrain from kissing her. He afterwards finds the bottle 
containing the water which he was in search of. The story proceeds 
to show how the old king is cured, and Queen Angelica, who has been 
enchanted, but is no longer so, marries the prince. 

02 



196 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

This story comes from Pisa, while " La Belle au Bois dormant," 
which it resembles in the main incident, is supposed to have been 
picked up in Brittany. 

The Woodman. — Once upon a time there was a woodman who had 
three daughters. He was very poor, and could not find any fire- wood, 
and did not know what to do to get his living. One day he was in a 
wood, and was weeping, when a lady appeared, and observed his weeping. 
" Why dost thou weep ? " " What can I do but weep, my lady ? " and he 
told his wretchedness. " Well," said the lady, " if thou bring me one of 
thy daughters for a companion, I give thee this purse, and besides, thou 
shalt always find as much wood as thou wishest." The woodman took 
the purse, and went home. He told his daughters what had happened, 
and that one of them must go as a companion to that lady. " 1 will go," 
said the eldest, and the father took her into the wood, and found the 
lady again, and delivered her to her. The lady took her away with 
her, and carried her to a magnificent palace. When they were arrived 
there, "See," said the lady to her, " thou art mistress here ; I go away 
in the morning, and return in the evening. These are the keys of the 
whole palace. I only forbid thee to enter this room," and she showed 
her a closed door. The girl was pleased at finding herself become, as 
it were, a lady, and promised not to go into the room. Btit she was 
always saying to herself, " What ever can there be in that room ? " 
and at last one day curiosity overcame her, and she opened the room, 
and saw the lady in a bath with two young ladies, who were read- 
ing a book to her. She shut the door again directly. The lady comes 
home in the evening, and calls the girl. "Thou hast disobeyed. Let 
me hear what thou hast seen." The girl, quite confounded, tells her 
what she had seen, and the lady, without saying anything more, took 
her, cut off her head, fastened the head to a beam by the hair, and 
buried the body. Next morning she went into the wood, sought out 
the girl's father, and said to him, " Thy daughter wishes to have with 
her one. of her sisters ; wilt thou take her one ? " and she gave him 
some more money. The woodman said, " Yes." He went home, took 
the second daughter, carried her into the wood, and delivered her to 
the lady. The lady carried her to the palace, and told what she had 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 197 

told her sister. Moreover, she showed her the sister's head fastened to the 
beam, in order that she should pay attention, and not come to the same 
end. That girl also refrained for a little while, but one day she said, 
" Here I am alone ; if I open the door, who will tell ?" and curiosity over- 
came her. She opened the door, and saw the lady sitting at a beautiful 
table with cavaliers. She closed the door again directly. The lady comes 
back in the evening. "Thou hast disobeyed ; let me hear what thou 
has seen." The other told her, and the lady cut off her head, and 
fastened it to the beam, beside that of the sister. And again, the day 
after, she went into the wood, and asked the woodman for the third 
daughter, and the woodman brought her to her. Arrived at the palace, 
the lady made her the same speech which she had made to the two 
others, and showed her the two heads. This girl resisted much more 
than the others, but at last curiosity overcame her also. She opened 
the door, and saw the lady in a beautiful state-bed. She shut the door 
again directly. The lady returns home again in the evening. " Oh, 
let us hear what thou hast seen." "I have seen nothing." "If thou 
sayest that to me, I will kill thee." But it was of no use (non ci fu 
verso); she kept on repeating that she had seen nothing. When the 
lady saw she was so obstinate, she made her put on again her peasant's 
clothes, and put her in the wood, to go about her business. 

The rest of the story does not concern us, and I therefore omit it. 

It is obvious that the incident which I have translated is virtually 
the same as that upon which the French tale of Blue Beard turns, viz., 
a prohibition to open a particular door, of which a young girl has the 
k e v — the overpowering effect of curiosity, and the cruel punishment 
which overtakes its indulgence. 

The Italian tale comes from Pisa, while Blue Beard is ascribed to 
Brittany* 

Bellindia, — Once upon a time there was a merchant of Livorno who 

had three daughters— Assunta, Carolina, and the youngest, Bellindia. 

The two first were ambitious ; Bellindia was modest and domesticated. 

One day the merchant announced to his daughters that they were 

* Planchc, anie, p. 515. 



198 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

ruined, through the loss of a ship which had a cargo of his on board. 
They thereupon retired into the country, to live at less expense, Bellindia 
attending to household matters, and the two others doing nothing. 
Several months passed away, when, one morning, the merchant gave 
them the agreeable intelligence that the ship, instead of being lost, 
had arrived safely in port, with all her cargo on board, and asked them 
what he should give them by way of present The eldest asked for 
a beautiful silk dress of the colour of the air, the second for a peach- 
coloured dress, and Bellindia for a rose-tree. The father and sisters 
thought her foolish for making such a request, and told her so ; but 
she persisted in it. The next day the merchant went off to Livorno, 
received his cargo, and warehoused it. He bought the dresses for his 
two eldest daughters, but felt no inclination to comply with Bellindia' s 
wish. In the evening he hired a horse to return home, but, being lost 
in thought, he left his horse to go his own way, and did not perceive 
his mistake until he found himself at dark in the middle of a thick 
wood, and the further he went the more he involved himself in it, until 
at last he came to a garden, at the end of which was a great palace 
brilliantly lighted up. He alights from his horse, goes up to tho 
grand entrance, mounts the staircase, enters a saloon, but finds no living 
soul. He sees, however, a small room, with a table laid out. Being 
very hungry he enters it, sits down, and helps himself. Throughout 
the meal he was assisted invisibly, the empty dishes being removed, 
and others taking their place. After having eaten heartily, the mer- 
chant selected a bedroom, undressed, and went to sleep. The next 
morning he rises, and goes downstairs into the garden. He finds his 
horse in a stable, well- cared for, and curry-combed. He is about 
to mount him, when he sees a number of beautiful rose-trees. "Ah ! " 
says he, " as it happens, I shall be able to satisfy Bellindia too ;" ;ind 
straightway culls a nosegay, when he suddenly hears a great noise, and 
there appears a magician as ugly and terrible as the Evil One, with 
his glazed eyes darting fire. The latter reproaches the merchant with 
his ungrateful conduct in wasting his roses after having received 
such kind treatment. The merchant excuses himself by throwing the 
blame upon his daughter Bellindia, and the magician accepts the 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 199 

excuse, but tells him that he must bring her there in eight days, 
otherwise he will suffer for it. After saying this the magician dis- 
appears, and the merchant, finding his right way by enchantment, 
returns home, and relates his adventures. Bellindia unhesitatingly 
accepts the condition, and at the end of the eight days is conducted 
by her father to the magician's palace. There they find everything 
prepared for her. Over one door is written " Bellindia's apartment." 
Nobody is to be seen, and Bellindia is left alone in the palace. After 
roaming through it, she finds her dinner prepared for her in one of 
the rooms. Whilst she is eating a great noise is heard, and the magi- 
cian appears. " Don't be afraid, Bellindia ; I only wish to know if 
you like me." u Yes ; that I do," answers Bellindia. " Will you 
marry me ? " says he. " Certainly not," says Bellindia, without any 
hesitation. The magician disappears. The same scene occurs over again 
every day afterwards. After some months, Bellindia receives a letter 
from her father, announcing Assunta's approaching marriage to a 
rich timber merchant, and asking her to attend it. At dinner 
Bellindia asks the magician's permission. He gives it, but tells her 
to return in eight days, otherwise she will find him dead. He gives 
her a ring, the stone of which will lose its colour when he shall be ill. 
He also tells her to fill a trunk, in the evening, with clothes and 
jewels and money, and put it at the bottom of her bed. She does so, 
and the next morning, when she wakes, she finds herself, trunk and 
all, in her father's house. At first her sisters make a great deal of 
her, but when they see that she is so happy and rich they become so 
envious that they take from her the magician's ring, and do not 
restore it to her until the seventh day, when she finds the stone dis- 
coloured. The next day she hastened back to the palace. The magi- 
cian did not appear until supper-time, when he told her that he had 
been at the point of death, and should have died but for her return. 
Again he asks her to marry him, and again she says " No." Two 
months after this the second sister is engaged to be married. Bel- 
lindia repeats her visit to her father, and again her sisters detain her 
until the eighth day, when Bellindia, to her great grief, finds the 
stone of her ring is quite black. She returns in haste to the magi- 



200 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

dan's palace, roams everywhere in search of him, until at last she 
finds him in the garden, stretched out on the ground, apparently life- 
less. She throws herself upon him, embraces and kisses him, saying, 
" Now there is no more happiness for me. If you were alive I would 
marry you, to please you." At these words the magician rose to his 
feet, entirely revived — no longer ugly and terrible, but a most hand- 
some young man, saying, " Thanks, my Bellindia. Know that I am 
a king's son, and was enchanted by a fairy, so that I should not be 
able to resume my own figure until I found a young maiden who 
should promise to marry me — ugly as I was." Bellindia is married 
and becomes a queen. Her sisters are excluded from the marriage 
feast, and fall down dead from spite, 

This story is identical with the famous " La Belle et la Bete " of 
Madame de Villeneuve. Planch e (p. 536) considers the latter to have 
been founded upon an old tale, and there can be no doubt that it was 
so. The sentiment which it inculcates is the moral of Sir Gawaine's 
marriage. 

The Italian story comes from Montale. 

The Apes. — Once upon a time a king had twin sons, but so little 
heed had been given to their birth that nobody at court knew which was 
the firstborn. The king therefore, in order to settle the succession, told 
them to travel and find wives : whichever wife should make the king 
the most beautiful and rare present should decide who should be the 
successor. The sons, who were named Giovanni and Antonio, accord- 
ingly mounted their horses, and each set off in a different direction. 
Giovanni soon finds the daughter of a rich marquis, who is ready to 
take him on these terms. She gives him a little box containing her 
present, which Giovanni delivers to the king. In the meantime the 
other brother Antonio proceeds in his search, until one day he finds 
himself in a spacious glade in the midst of a dense forest, surrounded 
by marble statues of men and horses, but not a living soul near. In 
the far distance, however, he sees a most beautiful palace. He reaches 
this after a long time, knocks, and an ape opens the door. At the 
same time two other apes appear, assist him in dismounting, take his 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 201 

horse, and conduct him into the house. Everywhere there were apes 
only, and they gave him to understand that he had only to give his 
commands. Finally he reaches an apartment, where he sits down to 
cards with four apes, one of whom seems to be superior to the others. 
Towards evening supper is served, apes sitting at table, and apes 
serving. Later on he is conducted by apes to a bedroom, and is 
there left to his meditations over his strange adventures. Being 
sleepy, however, he undresses and goes to bed, where he sleeps 
soundly, until he is awakened by a voice which calls him. " Who 
calls me ? " says he. The voice replies by the question, " What have 
you come here for ? " The explanation is given, and the voice 
promises to provide such a present as will ensure him the kingdom if 
he will marry her. He consents, and the voice tells him that the 
next day he will find a heap of letters, which he is to give to a 
person who will be waiting for them at the door of the palace. The 
next morning he finds a multitude of letters in his bedroom. He 
delivers them to a crowd of apes, who deliver them to the king, his 
father, and the latter lodges all the apes in his city. The next night 
Antonio is awakened by the usual voice — " Antonio, are you still of 
the same mind ? " " Yes, that I am," says he (si, che lo sono). " All 
right," the voice replies, "to-morrow you shall send another packet 
of letters to the king." The next morning these letters are conveyed 
to the king by another contingent of apes, who have all got to be 
lodged in the city, which is now quite full. These letters inform the 
king that Antonio has found a wife, who will bring the most beautiful 
and rarest present. The third night Antonio is again awakened by 
the voice. " Antonio, are you still of the same mind ? " " Yes, that 
I am," says he; tl when I have given my word I never change it." 
" All right," replies the voice, " to-morrow we will go to the king and 
get married." As soon as it was daylight Antonio rose, so anxious 
was he to see his intended. He goes downstairs, and at the door of 
the palace beholds a magnificent coach, drawn by four big apes, and 
driven by an ape. They open the carriage door, and within he sees 
an ape sitting. He takes his seat by her, and they drive off with a 
grand cortege of apes to the city of the king, his father. The 



202 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

intended wife of Antonio afterwards delivers to him a little box as 
her present. The next morning he goes to the room of his intended 
in order to conduct her to the chapel where they are to be married, 
when, to his amazement, he finds her no longer an ape, but a most 
beautiful girl, marvellously well dressed. They are married, of course, 
and after the ceremony the presents are examined, and Antonio's 
present, as containing a hundred ells of linen in so small a space, 
pleases the king the best, and he pronounces Antonio to be his heir. 
The wife of Antonio declines this arrangement, as she has a kingdom 
of her own, which has been under enchantment, until her husband, by 
consenting to marry her, broke it. She then gives Antonio a little 
staff broken into four pieces, and tells him to place them upon the 
roof of the palace at the four cardinal points of the compass." Ho 
does so, and all the apes in the city turn into lords and ladies, 
artizans and rustics, horses, and beasts of every sort. 

There can be no doubt that this story, coming frdm Montale, 
is the same as the French tale of the <5 White Cat," which latter is 
too pretty ever to have been an original invention of a mere author or 
authoress. The Italian form is very quaint and graceful. 

Fearless John. — There was once upon a time a woman who had a 
son half-daft, named John. The mother so illused her son that ho 
determined to leave her. Accordingly he went away, and met a man on 
his road, who said to him, M Where art thou going, good young man ?" 
" I am seeking my father," answered he. " Wilt thou come with me ?" 
" With pleasure." John stayed with him a month, and then he said, 
" To-morrow I wish to visit my mother." The man tells John to call 
him the next day before he leaves, and he will make him a present. In 
the morning John called the father, and he gave him a donkey, and 
said to him, " Take this donkey, and, when you wish for money, say to 
him, 'Donkey, spit gold; donkey, spit silver,' and he will spit tine 
everything." John went away quite pleased. When night came he 
stopped at an inn. He had his supper, and afterwards, when it was 
time, said to the donkey, •* Donkey, spit gold ; donkey, spit silver," 
and the ass spat out gold and silver. The host was delighted, and 



ROME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 203 

when John was gone to bed he found a companion ass and exchanged 
it for the other. In the morning John set off with this donkey, and 
knocked at his own house, and said to the mother, " Mother, I have 
found fortune ; throw down the bed and we will now get rich." He 
took a sheet, for the bed was all holes, and laid it out on the ground, 
and put the ass upon it and began saying, ** Ass, spit gold ; ass, spit 
silver ; " but the ass spat nothing. The mother, feeling quite in a 
rage, gave him a heap of beatings and sent him off. He went back 
to the father and told him everything. Again he stayed a month with 
the father, and then told him that he wished to go and see his mother. 

* Well," said the father, "call me to-morrow and I will make thee a 
present." Next morning he gave him a table-cloth, and said to him, 
u When thou wishest to eat spread this table-cloth and say, ' Table- 
cloth, get ready,' and it will get everything ready for thee that thou 
shalt wish." John, quite pleased, took it and went off. In the even- 
ing he stopped and slept at the same inn that he did before. The 
host, directly he saw him, said, "John, come and take thy meal here;" 
but he replied, " I do not want anything. I have everything here." 
He then spread the table-cloth and said, " Table-cloth, lay the table." 
And it got ready wine, bread, meat, fruits, and everything. The host, 
when John was gone to bed, exchanged the table-cloth for him also. 
In the morning John set off and went home. The mother said, " Here 
comes the blockhead." He spread the table-cloth and said, " Mother, 
make thyself easy, we arc going to eat." He commanded the table 
cloth, " Table-cloth, lay the table ;" but it furnished forth nothing. 
Then the mother took a stick and beat him until he was stunned. He 
went off quietly to the father and told him everything. He stayed 
there for a month, and then said to him, " Father, to-morrow I wish 
to go and see mother." " Go ; but call me, for I shall make thee a 
present." He gave him a cudgel, and said to him, u Go to the land- 
lord and demand back the ass and the table-cloth that he took from 
thee in exchange, and, if he won't give them to thee, say to this cudgel, 

* Cudgel, do thy duty, for I will belabour thee until thou sayest enough.' " 
John set off, and in the evening he stopped at the inn as before. The 
host invited him to eat gratis. When he was going to bed he put the 



204 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

cudgel on a bench and said to the host, u Don't say to this cudgel, 
1 Cudgel, do thy duty.' " When John was gone to sleep the host, 
who thought the cudgel must have some hidden virtue, said to it, 
" Cudgel, do thy duty." It straightway rose up and began to belabour 
him. He began to scream, and cried out, " John, for charity stop it, 
it is killing me I" " Until you shall give me back the ass and the 
table-cloth that you have exchanged it shall belabour you for ever/' 
The host went out to look for the ass and the table-cloth, and the 
cudgel went after him. Finally he gave him back everything, and 
then John said to the cudgel, " Cudgel, enough." After this John 
goes home, and his mother is of course delighted at his good luck. 

This story comes from Jesi, and is told in the dialect of the 
country. There is a foolish sequel to the ajjove which supports John's 
title to be called fearless ; but the English reader would not thank 
me for giving it. 

Joe (Geppone). — In times past there was a country-fellow named 
Joseph, and his landlord was a certain priest and prior named Pier 
Leone. The rustic had a farm on the top of a hill so buffeted by the 
North Wind that he could raise nothing. So one day he determined 
to come to an explanation with him, and set out across the Alps for 
Castel Ginevino. Arrived at the castle he knocks, and a woman looks 
out of the window. She tells him her husband is out blowing amongst 
the beeches, but will be in in a few minutes. By-and-bye the North 
Wind returns, and Joe tells him his grievances, and implores him to 
do something for his starving wife and family. The North Wind, 
touched with compassion, gives him a box, and says to him, " When- 
ever you are hungry open this and command whatever you please, 
and you will be obeyed. But mind you give it to nobody If you do, 
don't come back again to me." On his journey home, Joe, feeling 
hungry and thirsty, opens the box and says, " Bring wine and brew] 
and meat." This order is immediately obeyed. When Joe gets home 
the order is repeated, and his wife and children get an Curasao] 
good dinner. He warns his wife not to say anything about the box 
to the prior, as he knows he will want to take it from him. His 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 205 

wife, however, tells the prior all about it, and, in the result, the latter 
induces Joe to part with it on a promise of providing him with corn, 
wine, and anything he likes. The priest, however, does not keep his 
promise, and Joe and his family are starving again. So he makes up 
his mind to go and see the North Wind again. He does so, and, 
after some remonstrance, the good-natured North Wind gives him 
another box — this time it is of gold. On his way home Joe opens 
this and says, " Provide," and thereupon a tall big man, with a stick 
in his hand, jumps out and belabours him within an inch of his life. 
Joe thereupon shuts up the box, and resumes his journey. As soon 
as he has reached home his wife and children ask him how he has 
succeeded. He tells them that he has got another box more beautiful 
even than the first, and desires them to sit down to table. He then 
opens his box, and two men with sticks jump out and belabour both 
wife and children until they cry for mercy. Joe shuts the box, and 
desires his wife to go to the prior, and tell him that he has got 
another box, more beautiful even than the first; that it is of gold, and 
provides marvellous dinners. She carries the message to the priest, and 
he is all anxiety to see Joe. Joe arrives with the box, and shows it 
in all its shining metal to the priest, who becomes so enamoured of it 
that he offers to exchange it for the old one. Joe accepts the offer, 
and the boxes are exchanged. " But you must mind," he says to the 
priest, " not to open it until people are very hungry." " That will 
dp," replies the priest; " I shall have the titular and many clergy- 
men here to dinner, and I won't open the box until noon-day." The 
morning comes ; all the priests say mass, and, afterwards, some of 
them walk about round the kitchen. "To-day," they say, "the prior 
doesn't mean to give us any dinner. The fire is out; there is no pre- 
paration." But the others, who had seen the effects of the first box, 
answered, u You will soon see. When dinner-time comes, he opens 
a box, and makes all sorts of viands appear." As soon as the dinner 
hour arrived, the prior told all the priests to take their places, and 
they anxiously waited to see the miracle of the box. The box is 
opened, and six men armed with sticks jump out and belabour the 
whole company, right and left. The box falls from the priest's hand, 



206 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

still open, but Joe, who is outside, picks it up, and shuts it. He ever 
after retained the two boxes, and never lent them to anybody, and 
became a lord. 

This story comes from Mugello. 

These two Italian stories have their counterpart in the Breton 
tale of u Le Tailleur et l'Ouragan," given in the Melusine.* The 
Hurricane and his mother, of the French tale, is balanced by the 
Tramontana and his wife of the " Geppone." 

But the most curious circumstance of all connected with these stories 
of France and Italy is that they all agree with a tale of another 
country, hitherto considered beyuftd the reach of Latin folk-lore — 
11 The Legend of Bottle Hill," in Croker's collection. Except in its 
own local colour— for the whisky bottle figures in the county Cork 
story — there is no real difference. And yet it is a far cry from 
St. George's Channel to the Mugello, or Jesi, or even Brittany. 

The Three Sisters. — Once upon a time there were three poor 
orphan sisters ; one evening as they were sitting chatting round the 
fire one said, " I should like to be the servant that hands the king 
his shirt." The other said, " I should like to wait upon his majesty 
at table." " I," said the third, " should like to be his wife." The 
king, who was passing, overheard this conversation, and on his return 
to the palace sent for them all three. They were very much 
frightened, but of course obeyed the summons. When they came 
into his presence they confessed what they had said, and the king 
told them he would comply with their wishes, and he did so ; he 
himself marrying the third. After their marriage his wife, the queen, 
whilst he was out hunting, was delivered of a beautiful little son. This 
excited the envy of her sisters, and they determined to make away 
with it, and show the king on his return a little dog as his wife*! 
child. The real child is put into a box, and orders are given to 
throw it into the sea. When the king returns home he is shown 
the puppy in the cradle, and very naturally orders it to be ejected. 
The same thing happens over again, the queen's second child being 
* Col. 129, et Bcqq. 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 207 

a boy, for which another puppy is substituted ; and the third a girl 
so beautiful, that she seemed a ray of the sun (una spera di sole). 
A kitten being shown to the king in the place of his daughter he 
loses patience, and orders his master bricklayer to build a wall round 
the queen up as far as her head, and in that state she is allowed a 
slice of bread and a glass of water a day. 

The fate of the three babies is not what might be expected. A 
rich merchant, who happens to be on shipboard on each occasion 
when the boxes containing the children are floating by, picks them up, 
takes them to his palace, and brings them all up, having no children 
of his own. One day, when the two brothers are out hunting, and 
the sister is alone in the house, a poor old woman comes to the palace 
to beg alms for the souls in purgatory. The sister gives her half a 
loaf, and the two enter into conversation. The old woman tells her 
that in spite of all the grandeur of the palace, there lack three things : 
the yellow water, the singing bird, and the tree that makes sounds 
like music. If you do not find these three things, says she, you will 
never know your fortune. This makes the sister melancholy, and the 
brothers ask her the reason ; when she tells them what the old woman 
has said. The elder brother, when he hears this, tells his sister to be 
of good cheer, he will find the three objects. Before starting he gives 
her a white handkerchief, and says, " If this remains white it will be 
a sign that I am living. If it turns black it will show that I am 
dead." He travels on until he arrives at night at a cottage in the 
middle of a great wood where some hermits are living. He knocks, 
"Who are you?" says an old hermit. "A good Christian," is the 
reply. " If you are truly a man, put the little finger of your right 
hand into the keyhole that I may judge of you." The young man 
does so, and being admitted, tells the hermit his errand. The hermit 
warns him of his danger, but he persists in his resolution. The 
hermit then gives him a ball, and tells him to stand upon it, and it 
will land him at the bottom of a certain hill. There he is to take a 
horse and ascend the hill opposite. Midway he will hear frightful 
noises like the clanking of the chains of hell. He is not to be afraid, 
but to continue the ascent and he will find what he seeks ; if he loses 



208 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

his courage, however, midway, he with his horse will become a marble 
statue. The young man does what he is told, but, losing his courage 
when he is arrived half way, he becomes a marble statue. The sister 
looks at the handkerchief and finds it turned to black. The younger 
brother tells her not to weep, he will continue the search. He gives 
her a ruby, which will continue to keep bright as long as he is alive. 
Precisely the same adventures happen to the younger brother, and he 
becomes a marble statue also, and the ruby betrays it. The sister then 
puts on man's clothes, and starts on her own account. She goes over 
the same ground, sees th^same hermit, receives the same advice, but 
supplements it with her own quick wit. She tells the hermit that she 
intends to stuff her ears with cotton, and so not hear the noises, and 
to bandage her eyes tightly with a handkerchief, and so see nothing. 
" Bravo, bene," says the hermit, taking her for a man. Her con- 
trivances carry her safely to the top of the hill ; when there, she 
takes the cotton out of her ears and the handkerchief from her eyes 
and sees a chapel and an ornamental basin of bright yellow water. 
Upon the edge of the basin was a most beautiful bird that sang de- 
lightfully; by the side was a tree that sounded as if it played the 
most beautiful music. This was the fairies' lake. The bird, who was 
a fairy, then transformed herself into a lovely young woman, and 
told the sister to take up a vase and fill it with the water, and 
then go to the tree and take off a branch. The sister does so, 
and, taking the fairy en croupe, canters down the hill, whereupon all 
those princes and knights that had gone to the fairies' lake, and through 
fear had become marble statues, all woke up with their horses, and 
followed in the wake of the sister and the fairy. Amongst this fresh 
cavalcade the two brothers are recognised. They afterwards all three, 
in company with the fairy, return home, and the merchant, whom they 
consider their father, in his joy at finding them alive, gives a grand 
dinner, to which he invites the king, their real father, and a hundred 
princes and knights. The fairy restores to the king his children ; the 
queen is released from her confinement, and her two sisters are publicly 
burnt in a barrel of pitch. 

This story comes from the Basilicata. There is another story in 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 209 

Signor Comparetti's collection called " The Little Speaking Bird," 
with the same motif, but which has curious differences, and comes from 
another part of the country — Pisa. Of course it is quite plain that 
either story has its double in the old Persian tale of King Khosroo 
and his children — " The Envious Sisters " of the Arabian Nights. 
But it may be an old Latin tale for all that. Undeniably there is the 
same story told in Brittany: " Les trois filles du Boulanger, on Peau 
qui danse, la pomme qui chante, et l'oiseau de verite." 

Lion Bruno. —Once upon a time there was a fisherman who had a 
wife and three or four children. Misfortune came and he never could 
catch a fish, not even a sardine. One day, as he was at sea, and his 
only take being a shell, he (naturally as an Italian) blasphemed Ma- 
donnas and Saints. Whereupon, the evil one (il neniico) appeared to 
him, and finally a bargain was made between the two that the fisherman 
should deliver up to the other his next child, and on this condition should 
become a rich man. The fisherman, who thought he had the best of 
this bargain, through its apparent want of reciprocity, was shocked to 
find that his wife, who was no longer young, in due time afterwards 
gave birth to a son. The Evil One reappeared and reminded the 
fisherman of the agreement, and it was settled that the boy should be 
delivered over to his guardian at the end of thirteen years. Time 
went on, and the day before the completion of the term the Evil One 
again made his appearance and reminded the other of his obligation. 
Accordingly, the next morning the boy was sent off alone to the sea- 
side. Whilst he was sitting on the shore he picked up some wood 
lying about, and making crosses of it planted them all round him, so 
that he sat within a circle of them, holding one also in his hand. The 
result of this in short was, that when the Evil One came, as he did, 
he could not touch the boy ; and, whilst he was fuming and displaying 
his fireworks, the good fairy Colina came and carried away Lion 
Bruno— for that was the boy's name — to her magnificent palace. 
After a few years he asked leave to go and see his family. She gave 
him permission to stay away twenty days, after which he was to 

* Melux'nic, col. 20(5, at fict/q. 
P 



210 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

return and marry her. She also gave him a ruby ring, and told liim 
that whatever he should ask he should have. He departs in great 
state, and, without discovering himself, goes to the miserable hut in 
which his parents are living— the luck of the Evil One apparently 
having deserted them. By the power of the ruby Lion Bruno soon 
sets all this to rights that night by converting the hut into a magnifi- 
cently furnished palace, and the next morning he declares himself in 
a picturesque manner, too long to mention here. He then takes 
leave of his parents and goes to a great city (as it might be Naples, 
says the story-teller). Ti&re he reads a proclamation which announces 
that whoever .shall successfully run the quintain at a star of gold shall 
have the king's daughter for his wife. Lion Bruno is successful on 
two days, and gets away to his inn unknown to everyone. On the 
third day, after having again succeeded and attempted to escape, the 
king's soldiers catch him and bring him before the king according to 
orders. There he is told he must marry the princess, and prepara- 
tions are made for the marriage feast. Lion Bruno, however, 
cries off by explaining candidly that he is already engaged to a 
lady that for beauty and grace the princess cannot stand by the side 
of. The king and his court insist upon seeing this lady, but the ruby 
is powerless, it cannot compel her to appear, whatever attempt Lion 
Bruno makes. The fairy, however, hears the appeal, and instead of 
herself sends the meanest of her maids, who, on her arrival at 
the court, is pronounced incomparable. Lion Bruno of course dis- 
owns her, and the king insists upon seeing the fairy. The attempt is 
repeated, but the fairy sends the second of her maids. The same 
explanation takes place as before, and at last the fairy comes herself, 
and the king and his daughter and his lords were all stupified at her 
beauty. The fairy, however, is enraged at all this fuss, and takes 
away the ring from Lion Bruno's hand, saying, u Traitor, you shall 
find me only when you have worn out seven pairs of iron shoes." The 
king, seeing that Lion Bruno's skill at the quintain is not his own, lias 
liim bastinadoed out of his palace. He walks away, and hearing the 
noise of a forge he stops, and orders the iron shoes which the 
fairy required. These were soon made. Lion Bruno puts on one 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 211 

of these pairs and starts off. He finds three robbers quarreling 
in a wood, and is chosen to be their arbitrator. They had stolen 
three objects of great value and could not agree about the division of 
them. These objects were a pair of boots, a purse, and a cloak. 
The boots (they tell Lion Bruno) have this virtue : Whoever puts 
them on, will run a mile faster than the wind. The purse, by saying 
11 open and shut," yields a hundred ducats. The cloak has, this virtue : 
Whoever puts it on and buttons it, sees and is not seen. Lion 
Bruno, as may be expected, tries all three, and by the aid of the boots 
gets safely off, leaving the robbers to quarrel amongst themselves 
while he pursues his journey. He finally arrives at a hut in the 
middle of a wood and knocks at the door, which is hardly distinguish- 
able for the ivy which grows over it. " Who knocks ?" says the 
voice of an old woman from the inside. " A poor Christian who has 
lost his way in the dark." The door opens and Lion Bruno enters. 
11 What has tempted you to come to these remote parts," says the old 
woman, who is no less than Voria, the mother of the Winds. He 
confides to her that he is in search of his betrothed, the fairy Collina. 
The old woman tells him lie has made a mistake in coming there, for, 
when her sons return, they will perhaps want to eat him up. To pre- 
vent this catastrophe Lion Bruno is put inside a chest, where he 
creeps into a corner. Soon after the Winds all return, give a push at 
the door and enter, Scirocco, who is the youngest, coming last. As 
soon as they are all in they say, " What a smell of human flesh ! 
Christians !" " Oh, go to Bath" (Oh andate alia malo?'a), says their 
mother, " who do you think would risk coming here ?" The winds, 
however, were hard to convince, particularly that hard-headed Scirocco. 
There was no coming over him for some time at least ; at last they 
were persuaded to eat their polenta, while Lion Bruno was dying of 
fear in the chest. Next day Voria tells her sons the truth, and they 
promise to do Lion Bruno no harm. Yesterday it would have been 
different. Lion Bruno asks them where the fairy Collina is to be 
found. Nobody knows but Scirocco, who is better acquainted than 
his brothers with the secret places of the earth. He says the fairy is 
love-sick, complains of being betrayed by her lover, and is so worn by 

P 2 



212 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

grief that she will not live long. Lion Bruno prevails upon Scirocco 
to show him the way to the palace of the fairy ; and the next morning 
they set off together, the iron shoes giving Lion Bruno the advantage 
even over the wind. They soon arrive at the palace, Scirocco blows 
open the window, and Lion Bruno enters and conceals himself under 
the fairy's bed. He afterwards discovers himself and the two are 
reconciled. 

In the " Voleur avise," a Breton story, given in the Me'lusine, the 
hero frightens three robbers out of their properties, which are, respect- 
ively, a cloak that, being put on, will transport its owner through the 
air to whithersoever he wishes to go, a hat which confers invisibility, 
and gaiters which give the faculty of walking as fast as the wind. 
The hero of the Italian tale gets an inexhaustible purse as well. 

My extracts could be easily and largely augmented, but they are 
sufficient to show as well the close affinity between the two mytholo- 
gies, as also another fact, that French fairy tales are not Gallic and 
local except by accident. They have come into Gaul from somewhere 
else. They have not grown up there. It has been superficially 
assumed, that, because these French tales have been found in 
Brittany (at least for the most part), they must one and all be con- 
sidered to have had, if not a special Armorican, at least a Celtic 
origin.* But my extracts show that the same tales which have been 
told by Celtic crones in sequestered and misty Basse Bretagne have 
been recounted in a more graceful tongue and under a better sky in 
sunny Tuscany, in the old Neapolitan kingdom, and elsewhere in the 
peninsula, as familiar household words. No communication between 
the two countries can be reasonably supposed since the disruption of 
the Western Empire. This simultaneous appearance of the tales in 

* Mr. Planche can be taken as the exponent of this school. In the preface to 
The Tales of Pcrravlt (p. x.) he calls the French fairy tnlcs " legends :is old u 
the monuments of that Celtic race, by whom they were introduced into QttL N 
Again, in his Appendix (p. 513) he calls Perrault's Tales, " talcs of the nmserv 
which had descended from the earliest ages of the Celtic occupation of Armorica 
or Bretagne to the peculiar superstitions of which we shall find as wc proceed 
they all have more or less reference." 






SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 213 

both countries, thus deprived of close intercourse, disposes of the 
Celtic ascription. Being found in a non-Celtic country, as well as 
in a Celtic one, the common origin of the romances cannot be Celtic 
merely. It should rather be sought in the free and unrestricted 
means of communion which existed between them when they were 
both parts of the same empire. 

But it is not only in the motifs of the stories of the two countries 
that there is connexion and resemblance, there is also in the per- 
sonages which figure in both the closest rapport. Where the French 
have an ogre and an ogresse, the Italians have an orco and an orchessa, 
the ogre* and orco being naught else than the classical Orcus de- 
graded from Dis into a gluttonous devourer of unprotected children. 
Though endued with supernatural powers — above all the gift of scent- 
ing out a Christian who has intruded under his roof — he is, in either 
mythology, as remarkable for his stupidity as his cruelty. Strangely 
enough, both the ogre and the orco have tender-hearted wives, though 
of their own race.f 

In each mythology there are witches equally mischievous and 
malevolent towards all decent man and womankind. At the same 
time they are sufficiently soft-hearted towards their own class to meet 
regularly, male and female, at some general rendezvous, anywhere in 
France, provided it be sufficiently secluded for their sabbat, but in 
Italy always under the secular walnut-tree of Benevento, a lucky 
difference of meridian which has made the trysting-place of the Italian 
streghe\ a pilgrimage for modern travellers. 

To their rendezvous the French witches repair, after the fashion of 

* The ogre is not an Ugrian, as some have thought. (Planche, ante, p. 518.) 
f See ante. 

% Lippi tells us of a wizard and witch (uno stregone ed una strega) who renewed 
an acquaintance first formed by them at Benevento — 

" E perche a Benevento essa di lui, 
Com' ei di lei avuto avea notizia." 

(II Malmantile racquistato. Sesto cantare, xxxi.) In " II figliuolo del re, 
stregato" (Comparetti, pp. 36, 37), when the clock strikes eleven the three 
young and beautiful witches are under an obligation to go and dance under 
the walnut-tree. 



214 SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 

their English sisters, astride upon a broomstick. But the graceful- 
ness of antique mythology still adheres to the Italian witch, who has 
never degraded herself into electing and utilizing so mean a medium 
for locomotion, or at least very seldom uses it. Before starting the 
Strega anoints her whole body with an unguent, which turns her 
straightway into a bat. Her body is left on the ground as inert and 
lifeless as the clothes of which she has divested herself. On her 
return from her merry-making she re-enters the accommodating 
matter and becomes herself again.* 

This is, of course, a mere matter of subordinate detail. 

There is, however, an additional property which the Strega possesses 
to the exclusion of her French sister. She is a vampire, which the 
other never has been. She sucks the blood of sleeping people through 
the little finger, thus inducing an inscrutable and therefore incurable 
marasmus.f 

Fairies play much the same role in both the countries. Their 

* In the "II figliuolo del re, stregato," the witches, while they arc rubbing 
themselves over with the ointment, say, " Ointment, make me go three 
times faster than the wind." All then take their seats, and a bat coming 
ont of each one's mouth, they remain there like dead ; at three o'clock the 
three bats return, re-enter their bodies, and begin to eat their supper. 
Lippi (II Malmantile racquistato, terzo cantare), while he does not forget the 
ointment and the nudity, leaves out the bats altogether, and adheres to the goat 
and the broomstick. He is speaking of his witch Martinazza : — 

" Come quand' ella s'ungc e s'inzavarda 
Tutta ignuda nel canto del cammino, 
Per andar barbuto sotto il mento 
Colla granata accesa a Benevento, 
Ove la notte al Noce eran concorse 
Tutte le streghe anch'esse sul caprone, 
I diavoli, e col Bau caprone le Biliorse 
A ballarc, e cantare e far tempone." 

f This is inferrible from the " II figliuolo del re, stregato" (ante). The king 
is dying in this way through the witches. When the latter are publicly burnt 
" there arose a stench from their bodies as of the dead in a churchyard, because 
they ate the blood of the people of the country." 

In the " I dodici buoi " (Comparetti, p. 206) the witch sucks a girl's blood 
through her little finger. In " La Nuvolaccia " (Jb. p. 128) it is through a finger, 
without specification. 



SOME ITALIAN FOLK-LORE. 215 

name, of course, is the same, but the Italian fata is occasionally a 
vampire.* 

In both folk-lores the winds are personified. They are ogres and 
eat children. They can smell out the blood of a Christian who has 
hidden himself in their abodes, whether in Italy or France. There 
is a mother of the winds in both countries. In Italy she is named 
Voria. In France, so far as I know, she is anonymous.f 

The reader will, I think, agree with me that thus far there is a 
good family resemblance between these two neoteric mythologies. 

Henry Charles Coote. 

* See "La Nuvolaccia," ante. 

f See " Lion Bruno " and " Geppone " (ante). See also " Lc sette paia di 
scarpe di ferro" (Comparetti, pp. 217, 218), and " L'isola della felicita." 
{lb. 215.) 



WART AND WEN CURES. 

By James Hardy. 

[Reprinted, with additions by the Author, from the Border Magazine for 
August, 1863, pp. 89—96.*"] 




" Cure warts and corns with application 
Of med'cines to th' imagination." 

Butler's Ilvdibrat. 

[HILDREN are wont to amuse each other by reckoning up 
their warts, and from their amount forecasting their 
future position in society ; for each wart is " a sheep ;" 
and some have so many, that their flocks will to a cer- 
tainty attain patriarchal increase. Sometimes the warts depart 
spontaneously, and then they have to communicate that they have sold 
their stock. But more frequently they are not reluctant to part with 
them, and they would sacrifice all the wealth that they are promised 
to be rid of the ugly excrescences. The methods that they adopt are 
various ; but none of them, I dare say, are aware how antiquated and 
of what wide prevalence some of those practices are. I have some- 
times amused myself in jotting down these wart charms, and have 
afterwards gone in quest of their origin to the old writers ; by which 
means I found that the old and the new often blend together, and 
that people in these matters are still acting as people in like circum- 
stances did some eighteen hundred years ago. Of this we shall have 
several instances, while proceeding to recount the different supposed 
cures that have come under notice. 

* Only six numbers of the Border Magazine were published, namely, the 
monthly parts from July to December, 1863, and they are now entirely out of 
print. 



WART AND WEN CURES. 217 

1. Steal* a piece of raw meat, rub the warts with it, hide it under 
a stone, tell no one ; visit it each' day, and repeat the rubbing; as it 
rots so will the warts decay (Berwickshire, Durham, Cornwall, North- 
ampton). Steal a piece of meat, rub the warts with it, throw it away, 
and as it rots so will the warts (Northumberland, Suffolk). Steal a 
piece of meat from a butcher's shop, rub it over the wart in secret, and 
throw it over a wall over your left shoulder (Devonshire. Choice Notes, 
p. 253). The Tatler, No. 21, tells us of the butcher's daughter who 
" once buried a piece of beef in the ground as a known receipt to cure 
warts on her hands," and on this account was indicted for sorcery, 
because " she was seen to dig holes in the ground, to mutter some 
conjuring words, and bury pieces of flesh, after the usual manner of 
witches." " Steal a piece of meat from a butcher's stall, or his basket, 
and, after having well rubbed the parts affected with the stolen morsel, 
bury it under a gateway at four lane ends, or, in a case of emergency, 
in any secluded place. All this must be done so secretly as to escape 
detection ; and, as the portion of meat decays, the warts will disappear " 
(Lancashire and Yorkshire. Choice Notes, p. 250). " The taking 
away of warts by rubbing them with somewhat that is put to 
waste and consume is a common experiment," which Lord Bacon saw 
no reason to discommend. " And I doe apprehend it the rather 
because of mine own experience. I had from my childhood a wart 
upon one of my fingers. Afterwards, when I was about sixteen years 
old, being then in Paris, there grew upon both my hands a number of 
warts (at least an hundred) in a month's space. The English ambas- 
sador's lady, who was a woman far from superstition, told me one day 
she would help me away with my warts. Whereupon she got a peece 
of lard with the skin on, and rubbed the warts all over with the fat 
side ; and amongst the rest the wart which I had had from my child- 
hood. Then shee nailed the peece of lard, with the fat towards the 
sunne, upon a poast of her chamber window, which was to the south. 
The successe was, that within five weeks' space all the warts went 

* There had been a supposed virtue in stolen things. Baptista Porta says 
that the ancients believed that rue throve best when it had been stolen to plant. 
(Magia Natiiralis fol. 25, Lugduni, 1561.) 



218 WART AND WEN CURES. 

quite away, and that wart which I had so long endured for company." 
{Sylva Sylvarum, p. 21G. London, 1651.) 

It has heen remarked that most of these wart-charms are of the 
nature of a sacrifice, the waits being transferred to a substitute. 

2. Take a black snail or slug, rub the warts with it, and then sus- 
pend it upon a thorn ; as the snail melts away, so will the warts 
(Berwickshire, Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Hants, Devon- 
shire). " This must be done nine nights successively, at the end of 
which time the wart will completely disappear. For, as the snail, 
exposed to such cruel treatment, will gradually wither away, so it is 
believe the wart, being impregnated with its matter, will slowly do the 
same " ( Sternberg's Dialect and Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire, 
p. 166). To pierce the mollusc with a pin as many times as you 
have warts in number is a variation of this in Gloucestershire. 
{Notes and Queries, 4th S. xi. p. 501.) A Berwickshire shepherd 
had a wart on his nose, and being advised to get a white snail, 
which he was to kill after rubbing the wart with it, he did so 
and the wart disappeared. In this, and other prescriptions that appear 
superstitious, the snail may have been designed to act as a dissolvent. 
This appears from a specific given by Schroder {History of Animals 
as they are used in Physik and Chirurgery, p. 34. London, 1659). 
" The liquor of snails," i.e., those with shells. u Take red snails, cut 
and mix them with equall weight of common salt, and put them into 
Hippocrates his sleeve, that in a cellar they may fall into liquor : which 
is good to anoint gowty and pained parts, and to root out warts, being 
first pared with a penknife." Pliny {Hist. Nat. lib. xxx. c. 4), for the 
swelling of the uvula, says, anoint it with the juice drawn by a needle 
from a snail which is suspended in the smoke. This cruel operation 
must have been to get the liquor fresh. 

3. When a pig is killed, wash your hands in the blood, and the 
warts will go away (Berwickshire, Galloway). " A young pig being 
killed with a knife, having his blood put upon that part of the body 
of any one which is troubled with warts, being as yet hot come from 
him, will presently dry them ; Bad being after washed will qtrit* expel 
them away." (Topsel's History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents, 



WART AND WEN CURES. 219 

p. 532. London, 1658 ; apparently from Marcellus.) Lovell, in his 
History of Animals, &c, p. 118, Oxford, 1661, says of swine, from 
Pliny, " The warm blood kills warts." This appears to be another 
old medical prescription dying out as a charm. A pig's blood, 
however, in early times, was used to expiate murder. When Jason 
and Medea, guilty of the death of Absyrtus, Medea's brother, fled to 
Circe, she immediately ordered a sucking-pig to be brought, and, 
having cut the throat of it, rubbed the hands of the two criminals 
with the blood The fresh blood of some other animal was equally 
efficacious as that of a pig to remove warts ; thus, that of a mouse, 
according to Galen, or the mouse itself, on the authority of Marcellus, 
Rhazes the Arabian, and Albertus Magnus ; and a dormouse had the 
like property. (Lovell, ubi. sup. 93, 94, 45.) The mouse's blood is 
originally from Pliny. (Hist. Nat. lib. xxx. c. 9.) 

4. Rub the wart with eel's blood. The Rev. J. F. Bigge finds this 
at Stamfordham. (Tyneside Naturalists' Club's Trans, v. p. 89.) 
Lovell, from Jonston, says the head of an eel helps warts (Hist. 
Animals, p. 199); but the full account is in Schroder (ubi sup., 
p. 111). il They say that the head of an eel cures warts, if the bloudy 
head wherewith the warts are touched be buryed in the earth, that it 
may putritie." " Take an eel and cut its head off, anoint the parts 
where the warts are situated with the blood, and bury the head deep 
in the earth. As the head rots, so will the warts disappear." (The 
Physicians of Myddvai, p. 337.) Pliny (lib. xxx. c. 9) says that 
the head or blood of a lizard heals warts, and that the blood of 
a tortoise (whose head was cut off with a knife of bronze, the blood 
being received into a clean platter) removes wens and warts (lib. 
xxxii. c. 4). 

5. Tie a horse-hair round them, and strangle them. This common 
procedure is sanctioned by Avicenna, an Arabian physician of the 
twelfth century. " A horse-hair tyed about warts killeth them, causing 
a privation of aliment." (Lovell-, ubi sup. p. 79.) 

6. Puff breath on the warts nine* times when the moon is at the 
* Another operation, showing the efficacy of the sacred number nine, is for 

hoys to take a new pin, cross the warts with it nine times, and cast it over the 
left shoulder. (Henderson's Follt-Lorr, p. 109). 



220 WART AND WEN CURES. 

full, and the warts will depart (Durham). Sir Thomas Browne (Vul- 
gar and Common Errors, p. 272, 1646) refers " unto Christian con- 
siderations what naturall effects can reasonably be expected, when for 
warts we rub our hands before the moone." We shall find something 
of this in Pliny, for of this encyclopsediac author Sir T. Browne's 
opinion is not far wrong, that " there is scarce a popular errour pas- 
sant in our dayes which is not either directly expressed or deductively 
contained in his work." Sir Kenclm Digby, in his Discourse on the 
Power of Sympathy, remarks, "One would think it were a folly that 
one should offer to wash his hands in a well-polished silver bason, 
wherein there is not a drop of water ; yet this may be done by the 
reflection of the moonbeams only, which will afford it a competent 
humidity to do it ; but they who have tried it, have found their hands, 
after they are wiped, to be much moister than usually ; but this is an 
infallible way to take away warts from the hands, if it be often 
used." 

7. Count the number of warts, wrap in a bit of paper a stone for 
each, cast the parcel over the shoulder; whoever gets it, to him the 
warts will adhere (Durham, Westmoreland). Or put the pebbles' in 
a bag and throw it away (Northumberland). Toss the bag over the 
left shoulder (Lancashire). Throw the paper packet down at some 
cross road {Choice Notes, p. 252). Rub them with a cinder, 
and this, tied up in paper and dropped where four roads meet, will 
transfer the warts to the finder (Yorkshire. Ibid. p. 189). A variety 
of hard objects do as well as stones. The observation originates, at 
least is first recorded, in Pliny. (Hist. Nat. lib. xxii. c. 25.) The 
passage is thus rendered in Langham's Garden of Health, p. 473, 
London, 1579 : " In the new of the moone, take for every wart a 
pease, and touch the warts therewith, and binde tbem in a cloute, and 
caste it behinde thee." The original formula still exists in Bucking- 
hamshire, with a trifling modification. " Touch each wart with a 
separate green pea, each pea being wrapped in paper by itself and 
buried ; the wart will vanish as the pea decays." (Choice Notes, p. 
251.) The nodules of grain will do as well as peas (North of Scot- 
land). "Count most carefully the number of warts; take a 001T6- 



WART AND WEN CURES. 22 1 

sponding number of nodules or knots from the stalks of any of the 
cerealia (wheat, oats, barley), wrap these in a cloth, and deposit the 
packet in the earth ; all the steps of the operation being done secretly. 
As the nodules decay, the warts will disappear. Some think it neces- 
sary that each wart should be touched by a separate nodule." ( Choice 
Notes, p. 249.) The following was told me by an Irishman : Find 
a straw with nine knees, and cut the knots that form the joints of 
every one of them (if there are any more knots throw them away) ; 
then bury the knots in a midden or dung-heap ; as the joints rot, so 
will the warts (Donegal). Nine pieces of elder cut from between two 
knots or knees furnished a good amulet for the epilepsy. (Blochwich's 
Anatomie of the Elder, p. 52.) It is to be remarked that the Romans 
had a god named Nodinus, who presided over the knots of the stalks 
of corn ; hence they may have been accounted sacred. With regard 
to warts, however, nodosities of any sort may be employed. " Make 
as many knots in a hair as there are are warts, throw it away, a cure 
follows " (Northumberland). Do the same with a piece of twine ; 
" Touch each wart with the corresponding knot, and bury the twine in 
a moist place, saying at the same time, * There is none to redeem 
it but thee.' " (Manchester. Choice Notes, p. 250.) 

8. A mysterious vagrant marks the number of warts in his hat, and 
retires from the neighbourhood, and neither he nor the warts are 
heard tell of more (Cornwall). This appears to be a perversion of the 
Levitical scape-goat. 

9. Warts disappear in less than a fortnight after being well rubbed 
with a bean-swad, and the swad thrown away. (Yorkshire, &c. Choice 
Notes, pp. 164, 252). This charm occurs also as a rhyme, 

" As this bean-shell rots away, 
So my warts shall soon decay." 

The white in the interior of bean-swads is an effectual cure (Northum- 
berland). This appears to be a degraded medical recipe, which is still 
in vogue. " Country people sometimes make use of the juice of the 
leaves of beans to take away warts." (Meyrick's Herbal, p. 3, Birming- 
ham, 1802.) Poultices of the flowers of beans are still applied to 



222 WART AND WEN CURES. 

reduce hard swellings (Hall's Tour through Ireland, ii. p. 22). The 
swads and other parts of the bean were formerly used as a cosmetic. 
" With this object," says Langham, " doe off the huskes of beanes, 
and steepe them in vinegar or wine." The water of bean-blossoms 
made the skin fair (pp. G2, 63). And funny old Bulleyne notifies of 
bean-meal : — " This meal do cleanse the face of women, wasshed there- 
with, tempered in cold milke at night : straine it through a clothe xx. 
times, and let it drie on ; and in the mornyng, with a hard linen clothe 
softly, wette in colde water and milke, strike or wype the face there- 
with, and kepe them from the Sonne: like good huswives, spinnyng a 
three! of small thrift untill night for their labor." (Bulleyne's Booke 
of Simples, fol. xxix. London, 1562.) 

10. Lord Bacon remarks, " They say the like is done by rubbing 
of warts with a green elder stick, and then burying the stick to rot in 
muck." (Sylva Sylvarum, p. 216.) There is given in Langham's 
Garden of Health, p. 217, a still older charm connected with this 
witch-defying shrub. " Wartes to avoide — Put three droppes of the 
blood of a warte into an eldren leafe, and burie it in the earth, and 
the wartes will vanish away: or put three small stones into a leafe, and 
lay it in the way, and hee that taketh it up shall have the wartes." 
Warts are charmed away by crossing them with elder-sticks (Stern- 
berg's Dialect, &c, p 168) Elder-sticks notched with a nick for 
every wart, each wart being touched with the notch that represents it, 
are still buried secretly by village-charmers and old wives in English 
villages. (See Choice Notes, pp. 250, 252, 253; also Works of the 
Hon. Robert Boyle, vol vi. p. 168.) Old wives have had a monopoly 
of this branch of medical practice since the days of Lucian.* They 
get no remuneration till the warts disappear. 

" Here we behold what doctors ought to be, 
Their practice what, and what should be their fee, 
Taught by old women, let them learn their part !" 

Robert Heath. 



* Gipsies in Devonshire also charm away warts; of which there is an instance 
in W. Henderson's Folk-lore o/ the Northern Count'irs, Sec, p. 109. 



WART AND W£N CURES. 223 

Elder had been an old specific. " Wartes. — Wash them with the 
juice of the berries when the berries be black, and doe so every night 
and so binde them to in the nights." (Langham, p. 218.) u Wartes.— 
Anoint them with the juice of eldren flowers and wormwood." (Ibid. 
p. 688.) 

11. The stagnant water contained in the natural hollows of rocks 
or stones is an excellent remedy for warts (Berwickshire, and other 
parts of Scotland). This is "verter" water ; a name also applied to 
the water of healing, or " verter " wells — i.e., wells possessed of virtue. 
Thus also the water collected in the natural cup, between the connate 
leaves of the teasel, is represented by Pliny (lib. xxvii. c. 9) to cure 
warts. " Some use to lay the water that is in the leves about the 
stalk, upon warts." (W. Turner, a.d. 1551.) It is still employed as 
a cosmetic according to Willich. Thus, again, Pliny (lib. xxiv. c. 8) 
says, " Warts are destroyed by the water that gathers in the con- 
cavities of the black poplar tree." It is more likely that this practice 
is derived from some pristine idea of the sanctity of the liquid in 
these excavations, than from a perversion of Christian symbols. In 
Somersetshire, however, water from the font is reckoned good for ague 
and rheumatism. In ancient Wales also patients were advised to 
wash the warts with the water from a font in which the seventh son 
of the same man and wife is baptized. {The Physicians of Myddvai, 
p. 45G.) Water found in the coffin attributed to the " Maid of 
Meldon, v * at Newminster Abbey, was a specific in removing warts. 
(Hodgson's History of Northumberland.) 

12. If a corpse is passing who was no near relative or '• sib," get a 
stone, and throw it in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy 
Ghost after the corpse ; and, while you mention the name and sur- 
name of the deceased, say you " force your warts on him ;" as the 
dead body decays, so will the warts. My informant, when a boy, had 
cured himself by so doing (Donegal). In the South of Ireland, when 

* A Highlander told me that at Iona there is a hollow or basin in a stone 
which had held holy water. If a stranger was at evening to empty this into 
the sea, on returning next morning he wonld find the reservoir again filled. 
I expect that he would find it salt also. 



224 WAliT AND WEN CURES. 

a funeral is passing by, they rub the warts, and say three times, 
" May these warts and this corpse pass away, and never more return;" 
sometimes adding, "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." 
{Choice Notes, p. 251.) An Irish servant's formula is to pass his 
hand over the warts, making the sign of the cross, at the same time 
bidding them in God's name depart and trouble him no more. He 
then gives a paper, on which is written, " Jesus Christe that died upon 
the cross put my warts away," to be dropped by the roadside in God's 
name. As it wasted so would the warts. — (Notes a?id Queries, 4th 
8. xii. p. 469). 

13. Beware not to let blood from a wart fall upon the hand, other- 
wise it will be as productive of young warts as the dragon's teeth of 
old were of fighting men. In the North of Ireland, they say a wart 
will rise for every drop of blood, and there is some truth in the 
observation. 

14. The patient is taken to an ash-tree, and a pin is stuck first into 
the bark, then withdrawn, and a wart is transfixed with it till he feels 
pain, and then again the pin is pushed into the tree. Every wart 
thus treated perishes, and the pins remain their monuments. (Leicester. 
Choice Notes, p. 252.) Here, again, we recognise the substitutionary 
principle. The pins are devoted, like those left in the " wishing " or 
sanative well, as an index of expected or actual benefit. This charm 
is embodied in a saying, 

" Ashen tree, ashen tree, 
Pray buy these warts of me." 

The ash-tree (Yggdrasill) was the sacred tree of the ancient Scandi- 
navians ; in the county of Durham, a bunch of ash-keys carried in the 
hand preserves the bearer from witchcraft; and the herd-boys in the 
district of Buchan prefer a stick of ash to any other wood. It was 
anciently planted near villages and onsteads, it is said, in consequence 
of legislative enactment. Analogous to this charm, a nail driven into 
an oak-tree is reported to cure toothache. (Pettigrew's Medical Super- 
stitions, p. 64.) The prescription, which is very curious, may be found 
in the Welsh book, The Physicians of Myddvai, p 45 1. 



WART AND WEN CURES. 225 

15. The wart is to be anointed with the milk or juice of some acrid 
plant. The milk of the spurges is best known. Euphorbia helioscopia 
(sun-spurge, or " littlegood ") was called wartwort as early as the days 
of Turner, 1562. It is mentioned by both Dioscorides and Pliny. A 
variety of other plants lay claim to different degrees of credit or an- 
tiquity : as, for example, the milk or juice of sow-thistle (Lord Bacon, 
Parkinson) ; the wild poppy, argemone (Gerard, Parkinson, Lobel) ; 
the greater celandine (Rondcletius, Lobel, Parkinson, Culpepper); 
mullein (Matthiolus, Langham) ; marigold (Langham); rue (Parkin- 
son, Culpepper); the fig-tree (Dioscorides, Pliny, &c); and many others 
that might be quoted did they illustrate any popular practice. Of 
woodbine, Langham (p. 681) says, " Stampe the leaves, and apply 
them to wartes six times, to destroy them." The same writer says of 
the sap of the vine, p. 526 : — " Warts or knobs. — Burne the wood, and 
gather the water or sap thereof at the ende, and rub them therewith." 
This is from Dioscorides (lib. v. c. i). Do not boys perform this 
experiment still, with the moisture issuing from a piece of green or 
damp wood placed in the fire ? The wart -herb ( Verrucaria herba) of 
the ancients was the lesser turnsole (Heliotropium supinum), which 
grows in the South of Europe. The British flora supplies us with 
wart cresses (Coronopus Ruellii). The English name is not older 
than Parkinson, and was translated by him from one of its appella- 
tions a little antecedent to his time, Nasturtium verrucarium, which 
which was also called Vermcaria at Paris, according to Dodonanis. 
From the seed-husks of this herb bearing a fancied resemblance to 
warts, by the doctrine of signatures, it was applied to extirpate them, 
being thought by " some good to take awaye wartes by a specificall 
propertie of the seede." I shall only refer to one other class of plants, 
the crowfoots or buttercups. A correspondent of the Cottage Gardener, 
1852, says: — "There is a very useful property belonging to the 
Ranunculus arvensis, or common crowfoot, which I do not think is 
generally known. On breaking the stalk of the growing plant in two, 
a drop of milky juice will be observed to hang on the upper part of 
the stem ; if this is allowed to drop on the wart, so that it be well 
saturated with the juice, in about three or four dressings the wart will 

Q 



220 WART AND WEN CURES. 

die, and may be picked off with the fingers. It is the most certain 
remedy I ever saw 5 as I have seen people whose hands were covered 
with them cured in a few weeks. I have also removed them by the 
above means from the teats of cows, where they are sometimes very 
troublesome, and prevent them from standing quietly to be milked." 
But this property of crowfoots is in all the Herbals. Thus Gerard, 
p. 963 : the leaves or roots of crowfoots stamped " are laid upon 
cragged wartes, corrupt nailes, and such like excrescences, to cause 
them to fall away." This again is traceable to Pliny. In lib. 
xxvi. c. 14, the Batrachii radix (root of crowfoot) is a taker away 
of warts. 

16. Spiders' webs. " Some chirurgeons there be that cure warts in 
this manner : they take a spider's web, rolling the same up on a 
round heap like a ball, and laying it upon the wart ; they then set 
fire on it, and so burn it to ashes, and by this way and order the 
warts are eradicated, that they never after grow again." (Topsel's 
History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents, pp. 789 and 1073 ; 
originally taken from Moufeti Insectorum Theatrum, p. 237. London, 
1634.) 

17. The juice of ants. "Reckon how many warts you have, and 
take so many ants, and bind them up in a thin cloth with a snail, 
and bring all to ashes, and mingle them with vinegar. Take off the 
head of a small ant, and bruise the body between your fingers, and 
anoint with it any imposthumated tumour, and it will presently sink 
down." (Nonus. Topsel, p. 1080, from Moufet.) This is a com- 
bination of the modern formic and acetic acid, with some grains of 
ancient superstition. 

18. Anoint the warts with spittle in the morning before eating 
anything. (Berwickshire, Northumberland.) For the remedial pro- 
perties of " fasting spittle," I must refer to Pliny, Hist. Nat. lib. 
xxviii. c. 4, and elsewhere ; J. B. Porta, Magics Naturalis, lib. i. 
c. 10, p. 38, Lyons, 1561 ; Levinius Lemnius de Occultis Natural 
Miraculis, lib. ii. c. 44, p. 249. Frankfort, 161] ; Brand's Papular 
Antiquities, iii. p. 141; Peltigrew's Medical Superstition*, p. 74, &c. 

19. Open the warts to the quick, or till they bleed, and nib them 



WART AND WEN CURES. 227 

well with the juice of a sour apple ; then bury the apple, and when it 
decomposes the warts will be obliged to follow its example (North- 
umberland). My informant ate the remains of the fruit that he 
operated with, and thought he had done a clever thing, for he cured 
his warts, enjoyed the bit of apple, and like a good boy conscientiously 
eschewed witchcraft. Cut the apple in two, rub the wart with each 
section, tie the apple together, and bury it (Devonshire). Old writers 
don't tell us that apples eradicate warts, but more than one says 
that " the ointment of apples softens and supples the roughnesse of 
the skin, and heals the chaps of the lips, hands, face, and other 
parts ; also it whitens and smoothes the skin, when sunburnt and 
rough with the north wind" (Lovell's Herball, p. 18, Oxford, 1665) ; 
while another equally trustworthy, but nearly a century older, avers 
that the blooms distilled " in balneo Mariae " are famous for a " red 
nose." All very pleasing properties these, and with them we con- 
clude our remarks on charms for warts. 

20. In regard to wens I have only one incident of recent occurrence 
to illustrate. A fisherman's child, in one of the villages on the Ber- 
wickshire coast, was not long since taken by its parents to some dis- 
tance, to have a growth or wen on its head stroked by the dead hand 
of its grandmother. " Straiking with a dead man's hand " is a cure 
for warts in Galloway. (Mactaggart's Gallovidian Encyclopedia, 
p. 462.) To this responds what Sir Thomas Browne terms committing 
of " any maculated part unto the touch of the dead." Grose says, 
that " a dead man's hand is supposed to have the quality of dispelling 
tumours, such as wens, or swelled glands, by striking with it, nine 
times, the place affected. It seems as if the hand of a person dying a 
violent death was deemed peculiarly efficacious ; as it very frequently 
happens that nurses bring children to be stroked with the hands of 
executed criminals, even whilst they are hanging on the gallows." 
"In Northamptonshire," says Sternberg; "many persons are still 
living who in their younger days have undergone the ceremony, 
always, they say, attended with complete success. On execution days 
at Northampton, numbers of sufferers used to congregate round the 
gallows, in order to receive the ' dead-stroke,' as it is termed. At the 

Q 2 



228 WART AND WEN CURES. 

last execution which took place in that town, a very few only were 
operated upon, not so much in consequence of decrease of faith, as 
from the higher fee demanded by the hangman." We have it 
explained to us from Oxfordshire, that the swelling decreases as the 
hand of the man moulders away (Choice Notes, p. 258); which 
again exemplifies the prevalent notion of vicariousness, from which 
at first so many of these charms had obtained credibility. In Glouces- 
tershire an ornamental necklace is sometimes made of hair plaited 
together, taken from a horse's tail— some say that it must be taken 
from the tail of a grey stallion. (Notes and Queries, 5th S. i. p. 204.) 



229 



FAIRIES AT ILKLEY WELLS. 




HE origin of this tradition belongs to the village of Ilkley 
in Yorkshire. Its probable date would be — as near as I 
can find — about 1815, and of its authenticity there is 
little doubt, as it comes from a native of the village, the 
late John Dobson, of Holly Bank House, Ilkley, once an intimate 
friend of the present writer, to whom he gave the following account: 
" I generally asked them " (the villagers), he said, " what kind of 
things these fairies were, and they usually maintained that they were 
active little beings and rather resembled the human form, that they 
were ' lill foak ' and always dressed in green, but so agile that no one 
could ever come up to them. The most trustworthy and creditable 
evidence I ever got," he continues, " was from William Butterfield, 
the bathman up at the Wells here. He was a good sort of a man, 
honest, truthful, and steady, and as respectable a fellow as you could 
find here and there. In speaking of the Wells, I mean the buildings 
and bath collectively. In Butterfield's time there was only one bath, 
into which the water was led, and it was at the east end of the present 
buildings. 

" Wiliiam Butterfield," he continued, " always opened the door the 
first thing in the morning, and he did this without ever noticing any- 
thing out of the common until one beautiful quiet midsummer morning. 
As he ascended the brow of the hill he noticed rather particularly how 
the birds sang so sweetly, and cheerily, and vociferously, making the 
valley echo with the music of their voices. And in thinking it over 
afterwards he remembered noticing them, and considered this sign 
attributable to the after incident. As he drew near the Wells he took 
out of his pocket the massive iron key, and placed it in the lock; but 
there was something ' canny ' about it, and instead of the key lifting 



230 FAIRIES AT ILKLEY WELLS 

the lever it only turned round and round in the lock. He drew the 
key back to see that it was all right, and declared ' it was the same 
that he had on the previous night hung up behind his own door down 
at home.' Then he endeavoured to push the door open, and no sooner 
did he push it slightly ajar than it was as quickly pushed back again. 
At last, with one supreme effort, he forced it perfectly open, and back 
it flew with a great bang! Then whirr, whirr, whirr, such a noise and 
sight! all over the water and dipping into it was a lot of little creatures? 
dressed in green from head to foot, none of them more than eighteen 
inches high, and making a chatter and a jabber thoroughly un- 
intelligible. They seemed to be taking a bath, only they bathed with 
all their clothes on. Soon, however, one or two of them began to make 
off, bounding over the walls like squirrels. Finding they were all 
making ready for decamping, and wanting to have a word with them, 
he shouted at the top of his voice — indeed, he declared afterwards he 
couldn't find anything else to say or do—' Hallo there ! ' Then away 
the whole tribe went, helter skelter, toppling and tumbling, heads over 
heels, heels over heads, and all the while making a noise not unlike 
that of a disturbed nest of young partridges. The sight was so un- 
usual, that he declared he either couldn't or daren't attempt to rush 
after them. He stood as still and confounded, he said, as old Jeremiah 
Lister down there at Wheatley did, half a century previous, when a 
witch from Ilkley put an ash riddle upon the side of the river Wharfe, 
and sailed across in it to where he was standing. When the well had 
got quite clear of these strange beings he ran to the door and looked 
to see where they had fled, but nothing was to be seen. He ran back 
into the bath to see if they had left anything behind ; but there was 
nothing ; the water lay still and clear just as he had left it the previous 
night. He thought they might perhaps have left some of their clothing 
behind in their haste, but he could find none, and so he gave up looking, 
and commenced his usual routine of preparing the baths ; not, how- 
ever, without trotting to the door once or twice to see if they might 
be coming back ; but he saw them no more." 

The whole affair appeared so odd that it was a long time before 
Butterfield told anybody about it, and besides, he thought their appear- 






FAIRIES AT ILKLEY WELLS. 231 



ance might be a sign of bad luck either to his wife or " bairn." How- 
ever, after some time had passed, and nothing had come wrong, indeed 
he had rather prospered than otherwise, he told his wife, and of course 
she told it to other wives, until it became widely known, and by the 
time Butterfield got to be an old man, and people ceased to believe such 
things, he told it to very many. Some believed it and some didn't, but 
few thought William Butterfield didn't believe it. 

I may add that William Butterfield died on the 18th July, 1844, 
aged 69 years. 

Charles C. Smith. 



NOTES, QUERIES, &c, 



235 



NOTES 



[ Communications for tliese oolumns should he addressed to the Hon. Secretary."] 

1. The following cutting from an Irish newspaper was sent to me 
many years ago by an anonymous correspondent. I never printed it ; 
and it may fill a corner in the Folk-Lore Record • — 

The Changeling. — The following is from an old and mutilated 
manuscript found between the leaves of a large Family Bible, long 
out of use, in the parish of Kilpatrick, Scotland. It is now, for the first 
time I believe, presented to the notice of the curious, and merits 
their attention, as the incident described is a phase of a well-known 
popular superstition not alluded to in any of our collections of folk- 
lore. The spelling of the illiterate scribe who committed it to paper, 
probably with a view to refreshing his memory at some country merry- 
making, has been modernised. — I am, &c. M. 

[Tam]'s Jean, o' staney Auchinleck, 

[Had] a bonny wean, 
She lo'ed it well, an' kissed it aft, 

An' kissed it yet again. 

Ae day an ill black fairy cam', 

An', when naebody saw, 
She stol't awa, an' left her ain, 

A brat baith crookit an' sma\ 

As quick as lightning was the change, 

An' Jean she wonnerit sore, 
She had seen lightning blast a tree, 

But ne'er a bairn before. 

He frettit aye, an' wadna please, 

A sair torment was he ; 
Said Jean, " ye maun be o' the fairy-folk, 

Ye ne'er belong " [to me.] 

******* 



236 NOTES. 

The bairn, he grat, an' better gr[at,] 

As to the kirk they gaed ; 
An', when they cam' the kirk within, 

An erlish cry he made. 

The priest he touched him wi' his finger, 

A little aboon the bree, 
But he signed na the cross, for the changeling thing 

Out o' Jean's arms did flee. 

Some say they saw him to the lift, 

Wi' rapid speed ascen', 
Some out o' the door wi' a bricht blue flash, 

For me, I dinna ken. 

Now you that have got children dear, 

May Heaven my wish ful[fil,] 
An' shield your bairns frae [fairy-folk] 

An' every fearsom[e ill !] 

An old Folk-Lorist. 

2. — The following legend of Rose's Hole, from the Herts County 
Press, 7th March, 1840, is worth preserving : — 

Great Berkhampstead. — This town was thrown into a state of con- 
siderable alarm about three o'clock on Saturday last, by immense 
volumes of smoke ascending about two miles from the town, in the 
direction of the town of Frithesden. Many persons started imme- 
diately for the purpose of rendering assistance, with fearful fore- 
bodings of the cause, which, however, were relieved on reaching 
Berkhampsted Common, and finding that it originated in the furze 
growing thereon having, by some means not accounted for, taken 
fire. The fire was not extinguished till several acres had ignited, 
to the great inconvenience of the hares and rabbits. We are glad 
to find that no suspicion of its being a wilful act can fall upon 
the poor in the neighbourhood of Frithesden, as we are informed they 
have an exclusive privilege of cutting the furze, when fit, for their own 
use as fuel. The most probable conjecture is, that some children had 
kindled a fire in a deep place called Rose's Hole, and that it caught 
the standing furze, the sides of the hole being thickly covered there- 
with. Apropos — Rose's Hole obtained its name from the following 
circumstance, which occurred some years ago. An old man of Frith- 




NOTES. 237 

esden, named Rose, "dreamed a dream" that there was a large chest 
of gold buried in this spot, and that it was to become the prize of any 
person or persons who could get it up without speaking a word. He 
communicated his good fortune in expectancy to a neighbour equally 
credulous as himself, and to work they went ; they dug to a considerable 
depth, and, as the tradition runs, they arrived at the top of the chest, 

when Rose was so elated with success, that he exclaimed, " D n 

it, Jack, here it is !" The sentence was scarcely uttered when the 
precious prize sunk into the earth ; and, although they renewed their 
exertions, they never obtained another glimpse of the wished-for 
treasure. An old Folk-Lomst. 

3. Pekin: Spirit Superstition. — Six or seven feet away from the 
front of the doors, small brick walls are built up. These are to keep 
evil spirits out, which only fly in straight lines, and therefore find a 
baulk in their way. Another dodge to keep spirits away in the case 
of children, is to dress them as priests, and also to dress the boys as 
girls, who are supposed to be the less susceptible to the evil influence. 
— Extract from letter, dated Pekin, Jan. 19, 1875, from Professor J. 
Milne, F.G.S., to Mrs. E. Arnott, Milne Lodge, Sutton. 

4. The Child and the Toad. — A child at Ipswich was sitting one 
day on the grass when a toad jumped on to its breast and buried itself 
in the flesh. Neither by pulling nor burning could it be dislodged. 
The child pined away when its food was intercepted by the intruder, 
and an appeal was made to the " wise woman" of the district, who in- 
structed the parents to roast a piece of meat before the fire and place 
the child near at hand with a bowl of milk in its lap. The savoury 
morsel proved irresistible to the toad, which, leaving the child, and 
endeavouring to reach the meat, fell into the milk and was drowned. 

Thomas Satchell. 

5. Child's Charm for a new Tooth. — Five-and-twenty years ago it 

was, and probably is still, customary for children in the county of 

Durham, when they shed a tooth, to cast it into the fire with a pinch 

of salt, crying — 

" Fire, fire, burn bone, 
God send wy tooth again !" 

Thomas Satchell. 



238 NOTES. 

6. A Suffolk maid in the service of my wife is responsible for the 

following : — 

Augury from the Wear of Slwes. 
" Trip at the toe : live to see woe ; 
Wear at the side : live to be a bride ; 
Wear at the ball : live to spend all ; 
Wear at the heel : live to save a deal." 

Thomas Satchell. 

7. Judgment on Swearers. — If you swear at your hair when comb- 
ing it, it will all fall off. Two instances occurred at Ipswich within 
the knowledge of my informant. Thomas Satchell. 

8. The Crow and the Fox. — A lady lately repeated the following lines, 
which she said she had learned more than sixty years ago. As I had 
never seen them in print, or heard them before, I at once wrote them 

down : 

" It chanced one day that a crow so black, 
Down in a meadow so green, 
Had stolen a crust from a pedlar's pack 

And carried it off unseen. 
Up in an apple-tree flew the crow, 
But, ere she the taste of her prize could know, 
A fox came by and stood below, 
Down in the meadow so green. 

Says Reynard, ' Jove's eagle sure I see 

Up in that tree so high.' 
Says the crow to himself, ' He surely means me, 

And a very fine bird am I.' 
' What eyes,' says Reynard, * and what an air ! 
That plumage, how dh inely fair ! 
Never was beauty seen so rare, 

Up in a tree so high !' 

The crow enchanted, clapp'd her wings, 

Alack and well-a-day ! 
Says Reynard, ' I'm sure that angel sings, 

Could I but hear the lay !' 
The crow look'd round at what he said 
(For flattery often turns the head), 
She open'd her mouth and dropp'd her bread, 

Reynard caught it, and gallop'd away." 

An old Folk-Loiust. 



NOTES. 239 

9. Nun Monkton Feast. — On Thursday the annual feast was held 
at this village, and, as a new Maypole had to be reared, the festival 
attracted far more notice than usual. Steamboats were run from 
York, and conveyed three hundred passengers. On the arrival of the 
first steamboat from York the passengers were met at the river side 
by a number of villagers, who gave them a hearty welcome. Several 
lads carried small gaily-coloured flags, and a procession having been 
formed the visitors were conducted through the gardens of the Priory, 
which is occupied by the Misses Crawhall. They went thence to the 
village green, where the rearing of the Maypole, the most important 
item in the day's programme, was to take place. The new pole is 
pitch-pine, and was brought from Hull. It was reared on the site of 
the old one, and is about 10 feet deep in the earth. It measures 17 by 
16| inches at the base. It is painted in black and white spiral bands, 
and surmounted by a vane. The expenses, including the purchase 
of the pole and its rearing, amounted to about 25/., which was defrayed 
by subscription. The task of rearing, which was a rather formidable 
one, having been successfully accomplished, and the pole declared 
upright, a wreath of foliage and artificial flowers was run up to the 
top amidst cheers. The May Queen, for which in ancient times the 
prettiest girl in the parish was chosen, was then placed in a chair 
covered with red cloth and adorned with flowers. Her name is Annie 
Wright, and, though she would probably have satisfied the condition 
formerly considered indispensable to obtain that honour, the rector, 
who performed the ceremony of crowning, stated that she had been 
selected because she was the best girl in the school. A jn'ocession 
was formed, headed by the York Model Brass Band, and the May 
Queen was borne on the shoulders of two men around the Maypole. 
Foot-racing and other sports were subsequently held, and dancing on 
the green was extensively indulged in. The proceedings were 
brought to a close with a special service. — Yorkshire Gazette, June 
29, 1878. X. 

10. Well-finding. — The following is from an out-of-the-way place, 



240 NOTES. 

and worth preserving, I think : " Superstition guides the Coimbatore 
cultivator in the choice of site for a well. Generally he procures a sheep 
and drives it to the land in which he desires to sink a well ; he then 
pours some water over the head of the animal and sets it at liberty ; 
it wanders over the ground, and the spot of land over which it shakes 
its head to get rid of the moisture is the place in which the well must 
be sunk. I could never get from any ryot a satisfactory explana- 
tion of the reason they had in following this ridiculous practice ; they 
admitted, when pressed, that the result of sinking wells in sites so 
selected was often highly unsatisfactory. The prevalence of this super- 
stitious custom shows what uncertainties attend well-sinking in this 
district, for the men who follow this practice frequently possess a good 
deal of common sense in regard to matters which daily occupy their 
time and attention. They select their site for a well in much the 
same way as men in other countries decide a course of action on the 
result of the throw of a coin. However, the Coimbatore custom is 
quite as sensible as the practice adopted in other countries, when the 
divining-rod is used in the search for water."— Mr. Robertson* s Report 
of his Tour in Coimbatore. (House of Commons Paper, No. 143, 
1878.) G. L G. 

11. Hand-itching Augury. — The following lines come (untouched) 
from the Suffolk maid previously mentioned: — 

" If your head itches, 
You're going to take riches ; 
Eub it on wood, 
Sure to come good ; 
Rub it on iron, 
Sure to come flying ; 
Hub it on brass, 
Sure to come to pass ; 
Hub it on steel, 
Snre to come a deal ; 
Hub it on tin, 
Sure to come agin.'' 

Thomas Satchkll. 



NOTES. 241 

12. Tradition in connection with the Burial Place of the Argyll 
Family. •— " The old family burial-place of the Argylls is at Kilmun, 
on the Holy Loch, a small but picturesque inlet on the Clyde, behind 
Dunoon. It is about twenty-five miles from Inverary, the ancient seat 
of the Argylls, but it is only a few miles from Roseneath, another 
residence of the family. At the burial-ground of Kilmun there still 
remains the old tower of a monastery, founded by St. Mun, or St. 
Mund, as the old ' Croniklis' write it. A new parish church has taken 
the 2)lace of the monastic structure, and behind the church is a very 
plain building which is well known in the locality as containing the 
coffins of the ducal family. The small loch whose waters come close 
up to this old cemetery most probably had some early reputation for 
sanctity, and, like Iona, became a place of burial to which kings and 
chiefs were brought from great distances The kings of Norway, 
' Frae over the faem,' came to the Island of Columb's Kil to find their 
last resting-place. So it is with the Holy Loch; it seems to have 
been from the earliest times a sort of ' Campo Santo.' Stone kists 
have been found round its shores, with human remains in them. 
Nearly opposite the present burial-place is a very large tumulus, 
called 'Taninara,' on the top of which is a small inclosure, now the 
burial-place of one of the local proprietors. On the south side of this 
Loch Seante, as this small inlet of water is called in Gaelic, at the 
village of Sandbank, there is an interesting old cromlech, which is 
known in the region as ' Adam's Grave,' this name carrying with it a 
reputation which might explain the great sanctity of the locality, and 
at the same time it might be supposed to give the ancient precedent 
which has been followed by the burial of chiefs all round the lake, and 
a precedent also followed by the Macallum More up to the present 
day. Unfortunately the tradition that Adam was buried at this place 
does not find confirmation from any source. The probable origin of 
this curious myth may be that the sound of the Gaelic name led to it. 
It is called Ardnadam, and the name of the estate on which it stands 
is derived from it. This word, according to one theory, is supposed to 
be a corruption of Ardan-na-tuam, which has been translated the 
' height of the grave.' Lovers come from all parts of Cowal to make 

R 



242 NOTES. 

their vows at this old shrine. The lady has to creep into the recess 
formed by the stones, and, holding the hand of the gentleman, who 
stands at the entrance, he repeats in Gaelic a curious oath, and the 
spot is considered so sacred that a terrible fate is believed to befall 
any one who should prove unfaithful to their troth when it has been 
thus plighted. Such are some of the interesting associations con- 
nected with this beautiful island loch, on whose shore the late Duchess 
of Argyll will be borne to her last resting-place on Wednesday next." 
— Daily News, June 7, 1878. H. A. Walker. 

13. Indian Superstition and Barbarity. — ( From the Detroit Gazette.) 
— "A singular instance of Indian barbarity, which occurred in this 
quarter, has been related. The Potawatomic prophet died suddenly 
last winter, and as usual his death was attributed to witchcraft. The 
surviving relatives determined who was the witch, and resolved to 
avenge his death. The unfortunate woman with her husband was at 
the house of a trader when two brothers and a nephew of the prophet 
arrived and avowed their determination to kill her. They told the 
family of the trader not to be under any apprehensions, for that no 
injury would be done them. They directed the woman to sit down, 
and one of them struck her on the head, another gave her a second 
blow, and the third cut her throat. They then dug a grave and 
buried her. The husband was a spectator of these proceedings, and 
after their termination he was compelled to pass over her grave, that she 
might not return, and then to run round a tree, and depart as though 
he had escaped. The last manoeuvre was to prevent the return of the 
prophet to reproach his relatives with sparing the life of the husband." 
I cannot find the date of this cutting, but perhaps it may be worth 
noting. A. B. G. 

14. — Curious Custom at Biddenham. — The following note is taken 
from the Introduction to Mr. William M. Harvey's forthcoming work 
on the History of the Hundred of Willey : — " 1 have been favoured by 
Captain Robe, of Biddenham, with the subjoined accoun of a curious 
custom practised in olden times at that village, on Sept 22: — 'A 
little procession of villagers carry a white rabbit, decorated with scarlet 
riJbbons, through the village singing a hymn in honour of St Agatha. 






NOTES. 243 



All the young unmarried women who chance to meet the procession 
extend the first two fingers of the left hand pointing towards the 
rabbit, at the same time repeating the following doggerel : — 

Gnstin, Gustin, lacks a bier, 
Maidens, maidens, bury him here. 

This ceremony is said to date from the year of the first Crusade.' " 

G. L. G. 
15. Suggestions for future work — It was thought advisable to 
record in these pages the following suggestions as to future under- 
takings by the Society:— (a) " It would be a useful task for the new 
Folk-Lore Society to publish a manual of sayings, &c, which could 
be used as a guide for inquirers, and particularly for ascertaining 
the prevalence of forms in a shire or district. Such a work 
would sell. It should be like the Anthropological Notes and Queries 
of the British Association Committee published by Stanford, that is, 
the form derived from the Admiralty manual for travellers; it would be 
most useful for folk-lore inquirers at home and abroad." Dr. Hyde 
Clarke, in Notes and Queries, 5th Ser. x. p. 205 : (b) " English Folk- 
Books —I remember the pleasure with which I read among the publi- 
cations of the good old Percy Society two contributions by Mr. Halli- 
well on our Popular Histories and Chap Books, and the hope I then 
felt that the Percy Society would reprint some of them. That hope 
was never realised. But may I not now indulge in a revival of it ? 
Surely Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, whose liberality in such matters is so 
well known, would give the Council the benefit of his information on 
the subject, and perhaps permit them to reprint some of the very rare 
and interesting folk-books described by him as in his possession. I 
am told there have been several collections of such nugce literario? 
published in Germany and France. We have nothing of the sort in 
England, I believe, with the exception of Tabard's Collection, pub- 
lished now more than half a century since, and very scarce, and the 
collection of Gammer Gurton's Story Books, edited by Ambrose 
Merton— a pseudonym, as I infer from the Handbook of Fictitious 
Names to which I have just referred, for the original editor of ' N. 
and Q.' If so, I may surely hope for the support of a proposal which 

R 2 



244 NOTES. 

I think likely to meet the approval of all who take an interest in the 
objects of the Folk-Lore Society." — B. F. E. in Notes and Queries, 
5th Ser. x. p, 287 : (c) To this may be added a note by Mr. A. 
Knssell Smith upon a book included in his stile catalogue. — " Histoire 
des Livres populaires, ou de la litterature du Colportage, depuis le 15e 
siecle jusqu' 'a 1852, par Charles Nisard (2 vols. 8vo.), Paris, 1854, is 
the only complete history of foreign chap-book literature written. 
Beyond two small volumes by Mr. Halliwell in the Percy Society, 
nothing has been done for the extensive chap-book literature of 
this country. A similar work to the above is much needed : " (r/) In 
an old note-book in which more than fifty years ago — before 
publishing societies came into existence or the word ' folk-lore ' 
had been ever heard of — in which I was wont to jot down references 
to anything that struck me in my desultory reading, I have just 
stumbled upon some memoranda which would seem to have been made 
anticipatory of some such organization as the Folk-Lore Society. 
The sight of these jottings recalls vividly the delight with which I 
had been devouring Walter Scott's " Minstrelsy of the Scottish 
Border," and the charming Introduction to it, in which he states his 
opinion u that a work of great interest might be compiled upon the 
origin of popular fiction and the transmission of similar tales from 
age to age and from country to country," and the ambition by which 
my young mind was fired to gain some credit by carrying out what 
Sir Walter had suggested. But, although I soon found I had not the 
learning necessary to do so, I have never abandoned my interest in 
the subject, and have read all that Dunlop, Crofton Croker, Keightley, 
Price the learned editor of Warton,and others, have written upon this 
tempting theme. But such a history of popular fiction has never yet 
been written, nor can it be undertaken with any completeness until 
the vast mass of materials on which it must be based — the fragments 
which are scattered through innumerable journals— are, if not collected 
and printed, at least recorded and indexed. If the Folk-Lore Society 
undeitake this it will do a great and good work. What that task is 
the memoranda which I have just recovered will serve to show. They 
refer to Somersetshire Legends in The Quarterly Review, vol. xviii. p. 



QUERIES. 245 

27 et seq. ; to articles in the old Literary Gazette, No. 430 ; to a 
Legend of the Lincolnshire Eel, in the Mirror for November, 1828; 
to a paper on Nursery Literature in Blackwood for July, 1 825 ; and 
to another article in the same magazine for May, 1818. The task of 
collecting, calendaring, or indexing materials so widely scattered is 
clearly beyond the powers of any individual, but it might be readily 
accomplished on the co-operative principle now developing itself in 
literature, as elsewhere ; and if the Members of the Folk-Lore Society 
are invited to assist in such a labour of love, and the governing body 
give publicity to the result, there can be little doubt that some suc- 
cessor of Scott will be found to smelt the ore thus brought to the 
surface, and extract from it the precious metal, and so do for popular 
fiction what Jacob Grimm in his " Deutsche Mythologie " has done 
for another branch of popular antiquities, the " superstitions," and 
what he and his illustrious brother Wilhelm have commenced in the 
third volume of their delightful " Kinder und Haus-Marchen " on this 
very subject. — " Senex " in Pall Mall Gazette, 14 Nov. 78. 



QUERIES. 



[Communications for these columns should be addressed to the Hon. Secretary .] 
1. Origin of St. Monday, the Shoemaker s Holy day. — Is the follow- 
ing newspaper cutting, taken from an old scrap-book, at all authori- 
tative, or does it reflect an older tradition and verse ? " While 
Cromwell's army lay encamped at Perth one of his most zealous 
partizans, whose name was Monday, hanged himself. Cromwell 
offered a reward to the person who should compose the best lines on 
his death. A shoemaker of Perth brought the following : — 

4 Blessed be the Sabbath day, 
And cursed be worldly pelf ; 
Tuesday will begin the week, 
Since Monday's hanged himself.' 
Cromwell was so well pleased with this jeu d'esprit of the Souter's, 



246 QUERIES. 

that the reward was not only awarded hira but he also ordered that 
the shoemakers should have henceforth the Monday of each week as a 
holyday." A. 13. G. 

2. Folk-medicine. — Having in preparation a small work on folk- 
medicine for the Folk-Lore Society, I shall be indebted to any corre- 
spondents who may favour me with notes illustrative of my subject, 
which comprehends charms, incantations, and those traditional habits 
and customs which relate to the preservation of health and the cure of 
disease, practised now as formerly, at home and abroad. —William 
George Black, 1, Alfred Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow. 

3. Curious Sujwstitions. — Does it not come within the province 
of the Folk-Lore Society to explain the nature of apparitions ? I 
have for years been trying vainly to arrive at the solution of this : 
Eight or ten years ago a young servant-girl in Dorking told me that 
she was afraid to go into the garden after dark for fear of seeing " a holy 
post." What this might be like she had not the most distant idea; but 
Mrs. — , a neighbour, had told her there was one to be seen in the 
garden, and, to quote the girl's words, spoken with every appearance of 
genuine terror, as she stood with me at the garden door one dark 
autumn night, "she durstn't for her life go out." I have never met with 
this superstition since. If it is not a new invention of my informant's 
informant to frighten a silly girl, my own idea is that it may be the 
apparition of a " headless cross," some wayside or church-yard crucifix, 
mutilated by sixteenth -century iconoclasts, and believed afterwards to 
haunt its old neighbourhood in punishment for their impiety. I should 
be very glad of some light on the subject. — Catherine Gunning. 

4. The Merry Dun of Dover. — Many years ago I heard a gentle- 
man, who in early life had been in the merchant service, give an 
account of a remarkable phantom-ship called "the Merry Dun of 
Dover," a vessel of such enormous proportions that a boy who had 
been sent up to the mast-head was a grey-headed old man by the 
time he got back on the deck. I have an impression that he quoted 
an old ballad on the subject, but as to this I am not quite certain. 
Can anybody furnish the complete legend of " the Merry Dun of 
Dover ?" A Greybeard. 



QUERIES. 247 

5. Kit ivith the Can'stink : Tantarabobus without a Tail. — Looking 
over a very old note-book, I have stumbled upon two little queries, 
which have remained unsolved for years, but which may find answers 
from some member of the Folk-Lore Society. The first is, Who is 
" Kit with the Can'stick ?" I presume it is a local name for the Will- 
o'- the- Wisp. But, if so, where is the name in use, and what is the 
popular explanation of it ? The second is, Who is " Tantarabobus 
without a Tail," and what is the legend ? There is a third query as to 
the Giant Woglog ; but to that I have found a clue. K. T. L. 

6. Ignis Fatuus. — Might I ask a question with respect to this 
phenomenon ? Is it ever seen now, or has the system of drainage, 
which has been so extensively carried on of late years, extinguished 
it, and with it an element of a once generally and wide-spread piece 
of folk-lore ? K. T. L. 

7. Dragon and Serpent Legends. —There are many old legends 
throughout the country of the existence in past times of huge serpents, 
generally, but not always, with wings, though in all cases equally 
venomous and voracious. A complete list of these, or references. to 
where accounts of them may be found, would be of considerable 
interest The following examples may perhaps lead to the completion 
of a more perfect list : — 

Durham. — An ancestor of the Blackett family slew a monstrous 
reptile, dragon, worm, or flying serpent, in memory of which the 
descendants have to render service to the bishop at his first coming 
into the county by presenting him with a falchion, and thereby secure 
to themselves the possession of a large estate. — Relics for the Curious, 
1824, i. 36. 

Essex. — In the seventeenth year of Henry the Second, a.d. 1170, 
there was seen at St. Osythes a dragon of marvellous bigness, which, 
by moving, burned houses. — Baker s Chronicle. 

Gloucester. — In the parish of Deerhurst, near Tewkesbury, a 
serpent of prodigious bigness was a great grievance to all the country 
by poisoning the inhabitants and killing their cattle. The king pro- 
claimed that whoever killed the serpent should enjoy an estate in the 



248 QUERIES. 

parish which belonged to the Crown. One John Smith placed a 
quantity of milk in a place to which the serpent resorted, who gorged 
the whole agreeable to expectation, and then lay down to sleep. 
Smith then cut off his head with an axe. His family enjoyed the 
estate when Sir Robert Atkyns compiled this account; and Mr. Lane, 
who married a widow of that family, had then the axe in his posses- 
sion. — Relics for the Curious, i. 34. 

Hereford. — There is a tradition of a furious combat at Mordiford, 
near Hereford, between a winged serpent and a condemned malefactor, 
who was promised pardon on condition of his destroying the monster. 
He succeeded in killing the dragon, but fell a victim to the venom of 
his poisonous breath. A picture of the dragon was preserved in the 
church at Mordiford, and represents a flying serpent about 12 feet 
long, with a large head and open mouth. — Belies for the Curious, i. 
35. Notes and Queries, 3rd Series, vol. vii. 

Oxon. — Near Chipping Norton there was found, in 1349, a serpent 
having two heads, and faces like women, one being shaped after the 
new type of that time, another after the manner of the old attire, and 
it had great wings after the manner of a bat. — Stow's Annals, p. 387. 

Sussex. — At St. Leonard's Forest, near Horsham, there was seen, 
in 1614, a strange and monstrous serpent or dragon, to the great 
annoyance and divers slaughters both of men and cattle. It was re- 
ported to be nine feet in length, a quantity of thickness about the 
middest, and somewhat smaller at both ends. It " rids way'' as fast as 
a man can run, is very proud of countenance, and hath on either side 
of him two great bunches as big as a large foot-ball, which some think 
will in time grow to be wings. He can cast his venom from him 
about four rodde. — Harl. Miscellany, iii. 106. 

Yorkshire. — At Wort ley or Wantley, near Ilotherham, there was a 
terrible dragon with wings, claws, teeth, and a sting in his tail, which 
was slain by a knight named More. — Percy Reliques. 

Some of these legends are said to be merely allegorical ; thus the 
Mordiford dragon is set down as the flag of Uther, surnamed Pendragon, 
the chief of the Silures, about a.d. 448. And the Dragon of Wantley 
is said to be Sir Francis Wortley, who, having bought a large estate, 



QUERIES. 249 

endeavoured to acquire a number of surrounding properties and 
interests by unfair means, in which he was resisted and defeated by 
More the lawyer. Be this as it may, and these explanations are by no 
means universally admitted, the fact remains that there are many of 
these legends, and the belief in great land-serpents seems to have been 
in old times as general as that of sea-serpents in modern days. The 
most distinct, as well as the most recent, is the legend of the St. 
Leonard's serpent in 1614, which my old friend Dr. Mantell, the 
geologist, used to quote as possibly to be traced to the Saurians, whose 
fossil remains are now to be found abundantly in the neighbouring 
beds of Tilgate Forest. I believe there are not many counties from 
which serpent legends, more or less definite, could not be collected. — 

Draco. 

8 Local Rhymes and Sayings — Will Members of the Society for- 
ward me any items of the above that they may know of, and also give 
references, where possible, to explanations as to their origin ? I have 
received from Mr. W. Andrews a small pamphlet on Derbyshire local 
rhymes, and Mr. Walter Rye has kindly placed in my hands a similar 
collection for Norfolk. G. L. Gomme. 

9. Seamen's Superstitions. — Perhaps no class of men are more super- 
stitious than sailors, and few legends are more curious and interesting 
than those of the sea. I hope in time the Folk-Lore Society will 
collect a complete series of these sayings and beliefs. At the pre- 
sent time I am collecting notes on " unlucky ships," and should be 
glad of any information as to the grounds on which old salts say, 
tl Aye, I always knew she would never come to port; 1 knew she were 
bound to Davy Jones." A ship may be unlucky if her keel was laid 
on an unlucky day, or if she were launched on a " black day," or by 
some one sure to bring ill-luck. Again, she may have been built on an 
unlucky slip ; or many other circumstances may have predicted evil. 

It was surely a remarkable circumstance that the two twin ships, 
perhaps the finest built in the last century, which were launched from 
the same yard, and were named after our king and queen, were both so 
unfortunate. I refer to the Royal George and the Royal Charlotte, 
which I believe were built in the same yard ; the former was lost at 

S 



250 NOTICES AND NEWS. 

Spithead, 29th August, 1782, when about 900 lives were sacrificed; 
the latter was lost at Leghorn on the 7th March, 1800, when about 
700 lives were lost. They were both splendid ships ; the Royal 
George carried 108 guns, the Royal Charlotte 110 guns; and, if J am 
correct in the statement that they were launched from adjoining slips, 
sailors could hardly be blamed if thuy said that it was an unlucky yard, 
and that any ship subsequently built in it would be " sure to come to 
grief" I should like to know of any instance of ships which sailors 
predicted as thus fore-doomed, which subsequently were lost. S. 

10. Legendary Origin of British Towns. — Will Members of the 
Society forward me references to, or accounts of, the legendary origin 
of towns or places in Great Britain and Ireland? G. L. Gommk. 

11. Irish Folk-Lore. — In the preface to the second volume of 
The Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, Mr. T. 
Crofton Croker says : " To Mr. Lynch, in particular, my thanks are 
due for a manuscript collection of legends from which those of 
' Diarmid Bawn the PijJer ' and ' Rent Day ' have been selected." 

Where is this collection now ? Will its possessor consent to its 
being made available to the purposes of the Folk-Lore Society ? 

H. C. C. 



NOTICES AND NEWS. 



The Council found that they could not undertake a translation of 
Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie with their present funds ; and it is 
therefore satisfactory to learn that Mr. Swan Sonnenschein, a member 
of the Society, is about to publish a translation by Mr. James S. 
Stallybrass. A prospectus,to be obtained from Mr. Sonnenschein, has 
been issued, and we are promised a translation worthy of the German 
original. The subscription price is 12s. per volume, though Members 
of the Society will be entitled to receive them at 10s. each. 

Mr. William George Black has in hand for the Society a small 
volume, to be entitled Folk-Medicine. It is hoped that it will be 
ready next year. 






NOTICES AND NEWS. 251 



Members of the Society will be glad to learn that the Government 
has determined to bear the expense of publishing the Bushmen col- 
lections made by Dr. Bleek, and now carried on by Miss Lloyd. 

Miss Lloyd, to whom the task of continuing Dr. Bleek's Bushman 
investigations has been entrusted, is thinking of starting a periodical 
of small size devoted to Bushman, Hottentot, and Kaffir Folk-lore. 
The price would not exceed 6d. a part, and from six to twelve parts 
might be published a year. Before the periodical can be started, 
however, it will be necessary that a sufficient number of subscribers 
be obtained to cover the expense of publication. Intending sub- 
scribers are requested to write to the Rev. A. H. Sayce, Queen's 
College, Oxford. 

Mr. Theal has formed a large and valuable collection of Kaffir 
Folk-lore which he is anxious to publish, if only he can secure a 
sufficient number of subscribers for the work. Specimen sheets have 
already been printed. Subscribers names may be sent to Mr Theal, 
Lovedale, South Africa, or to the Rev. A. H. Sayce, Queen's College, 
Oxford. 

The Council received a very fair return of the Bibliographical slips 
sent out in June last. But Mr. Thomas Satchel, a member of the 
Society, has been for a number of years collecting materials towards 
compiling a full Bibliography of folk-lore publications, and he has 
kindly placed his collection and his services as editor at the disposal of 
the Society. It is hoped that a preliminary short list of titles may be 
ready for printing early next year. As Mr. Satchell has paid his chief 
attention to separate publications, members of the Society will greatly 
aid the object in view by sending particulars of Articles in Journals. 
Slips for this purpose may be had of the Honorary Secretary. 

The want of good indexes to some of our folk-lore books has long 
been felt, and it is suggested that the publication of such indexes 
should be undertaken by the Society. Mr. James Britten, F.L.S. is 
in hopes of being able to undertake the Index to the folk-lore 
columns of Notes and Queries. The Council will be glad to receive 
further help in this direction. 

A transcript of the Aubrey MSS. entitled " Remains of Gentilisme 
and Judaisme," in the Lansdowne Collection at the British Museum 






' 252 NOTICES AND NEWS. 



is now being made for the Society. It is hoped that the first pari 
will be issued to Members about March next, under the editorship of 
Mr. James Britten, F.L.S. 

Mr. Bawden, of Canada, drew attention to the collections on North 
American Indian Folk-tales which exist in the archives of some of 
the learned Societies of America. In compliance with the suggestion 
of Mr. Bawden, the Council have been in correspondence with the 
American Societies, and they have met with very favourable replies. 
It is hoped that a good collection of North American Folk-tales will 
thus be obtained. 

The Reverend W. D. Parish, the author of the well-known 
Glossary of Sussex Dialect, is preparing for the Society a collection of 
East Sussex Superstitions, 

Mr. J. W. McCarthy, of the British Legation at Yedo, Japan, has 
promised to forward to the Society a large collection of proverbs, 
folk-tales, and superstitions which he has been making for the last 
two years during his residence in Japan. 

The Reverend T. F. Thistleton Dyer has just published a work 
called English Folk-Lore, and is engaged upon two other works — 
Shakespearian Folk-Lore and Comparative Folk-Lore. 

Mr. James Napier has published a work on the Folk-Lore of the 
West of Scotland, and promises to let the Society have some collections 
he has made on Ballad Folk-Lore. 

The Hon. Secretary has in hand some miscellaneous slips and notes, 
many of which should be placed in the hands of collectors on the sub- 
ject to which they refer before being printed in the Records of the 
Society. Members who are devoting their attention to special 
branches of folk-lore should communicate with the Secretary, and 
members having miscellaneous collections should send them at once 
to the Secretary. By this means it is hoped that scattered aotefl m;iv 
be placed in the hands of collectors of special branches of folk-lore 
and published from time to time in the Records, under the care of 
authors who have paid considerable attention to their particular 
branches. 



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